Restaurant Reopening Guidelines (Steps, Tips, and More)

Restaurant Reopening Guidelines (Steps, Tips, and More)

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More than half of people who have lost their job because of the COVID-19 pandemic were food and beverage industry employees, so it's not surprising that so many of these employees and business owners are anxious to get back to work.

All around the country, restaurants are beginning to make plans to reopen their restaurants, but opening for dine-in service is complex. Restaurants will need to follow changes made in legislation that affects the food and beverage industry and adopt the industry's best practices regarding hygiene and face-to-face service in this era of pandemic.

The following guide is designed to help restaurants develop their reopening process and address everything needed to protect staff and safely serve diners again.    

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Key Steps of Reopening Your Restaurant

Step 1: Know the Laws

One of the first steps restaurants need to take is to get informed about changes to laws and regulations that affect their business. Fortunately, the food and beverage industry is a strong advocate for businesses operating in this sector.

Restaurants can visit industry organizations to find out about changes in legislation as well as other recommendations that can enhance their reopening process. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will also be updating its websites continually as needed with information about legislative changes and best practices for restaurants and other food industry businesses.    

Step 2: Create a Safety Plan

To reopen safely, restaurants will need a robust safety plan that details how often staff will be required to clean surfaces.

While restaurant staff may be used to cleaning tables and customer seating, they should incorporate other best practices to improve the safety of their setting. When it comes to cleaning, they should also plan to clean door handles, payment processing machines, and other surfaces that customers are likely to come into contact with during their visit. It's important to sanitize these surfaces on a routine basis to minimize the risk for virus spread.    

When creating a safety plan, restaurants will need to remove some tables in order to provide distance between tables. The Center for Disease Control is still recommending that people try to remain six feet apart from each other in public. Additionally, restaurants will need to order a substantial supply of masks and gloves for servers, bartenders, and other staff members who come into close proximity with the public.    

Step 3: Develop a Social Distancing Plan

Social distancing remains important for the public at large even though many businesses are beginning to reopen.

Restaurants will need to have a plan to foster social distancing. As mentioned, they'll need to place tables further apart and they may need to reduce the number of patrons allowed in the restaurant at one time for their protection and the protection of staff.

After determining how many people they can safely serve, restaurants should post this information at their business location and online. There has been backlash among the public about social distancing and wearing masks so it's important for restaurants to be upfront about their plans and to be firm about following their own regulations.   

Step 4: Train and Monitor Staff

Before reopening, restaurants will need to train staff about how to safely perform their jobs in light of the new legislation and regulations. Be prepared to inform them about how often they need to change masks and address any concerns they may have before you reopen. After you reopen, it's important to monitor your staff to ensure they're following all of your guidelines.  

RELATED READING: Navigating Staffing and Supplies During Pandemic

What about Testing?

Some companies are adopting methods to test the wellness of staff. Some plan to check employees' temperatures each morning before the start of the work day. If an employee does become ill, it's important for employers to have a plan for coping--and helping their employee cope. Restaurants can advise employees to visit a health clinic where they may be administered a COVID-19 test.   

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 If they do have the virus, they'll need to quarantine and follow all the CDC recommendations before returning to work. If they don't have the virus, but are suffering from another illness like the common cold, restaurants will still need to have a plan in place to address employee illness.

People are concerned about sneezes, sniffles, and coughs. Other staff members and diners will be concerned if they're in the midst of anyone who exhibits symptoms of illness. How will your restaurant address these concerns?   

As the pandemic lockdown begins to subside, reopening restaurants will still want to maintain their online orders for take-out as many customers will still be hesitant to dine out.

Online ordering has proven to be a saving grace for many restaurants around the country who have still been able to stay open and earn income. Hopefully, the lockdown period will not need to be revisited, but virus outbreaks may certainly occur. Restaurants must be prepared in case they're forced to close to diners again or if they have other disruptions to contend with.    


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How to Reduce the Cost of Reopening

How much should a restaurant invest in its reopening plans? What if diners aren't yet comfortable with the idea of dining in? Restaurant owners have much to consider, but there are some reliable ways to reduce costs during this reopening process.

1. Examine Operating Costs

Many restaurant owners are well-versed in their weekly and monthly costs. To be successful and achieve positive profit margins, they have to know this information.

But now, it's time to reassess those operating costs and factor in new costs--the costs of safety supplies such as face coverings and gloves and the cost of reduced restaurant occupancy in order to promote social distancing among diners. And, here's another concern: many food suppliers have been forced to increase the pricing for meat, seafood, and fresh produce. What are these increases going to look like state by state?

Food, insurance costs, additional supplies--these elements are going to change the typical restaurant costs that business owners have been used to paying. Gather all this information to paint a current financial picture of the expenses. Once you have the costs before you, you can set about attempting to reduce them.

2. Talk to Your Bank or Accountant

It may be worthwhile for restaurants to consult some experts about their financial outlook. Many businesses will need to rely on their banks for financial assistance in the form of loans.

Even so, how much should be borrowed? What is the repayment plan? What does the accountant say? To be fiscally safe about reopening, it's important to discuss your plans with some financial experts to ensure that you're incurring the least amount of risk as possible in these uncertain times.

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3. Limit Your Menu

Many restaurants that have gone to a carry-out-only model have already begun to limit their menu options. This is a smart way for restaurants to cut costs. Naturally, it's important to keep fan favorites on the menu.

Continue to serve options that are most popular with diners. Remove items that do not sell as well. In time, restaurants can add them back onto the menu or exchange them for other options. Ordering a less-expansive array of food and ingredients can help restaurants cut corners without sacrificing any of the quality of the meals they produce.

4. Reduce Hours of Operation

The cost to reopen at former business hours may be too costly for many restaurants.

Some restaurants will struggle to pay their employees full-time wages.

Restaurants can reopen on a part-time basis in order to keep costs down while earning some income. With success, they can certainly expand their hours again. Consider what hours of operation are busiest. Restaurants that are popular breakfasts spots may want to go to a breakfast and lunch only model.

Conversely, restaurants that specialize in dinner may want to cut out both breakfast and lunch or close earlier after the dinner rush.

5. Hire an Essential Crew

Unfortunately, many restaurants will not be able to rehire all of their former employees. To cut down on costs, it may be necessary to hire a bare-bones crew. Naturally, chefs and cooks need to be brought on board, but restaurants may not need as many servers to wait on customers in the early weeks of reopening. Ideally, if the operation is a success and the virus is kept at bay, owners can reassess their staffing needs in time.

6. Monitor Staff

Once you have a reopening plan, share it with staff. They can help you keep costs down, too, by following your new rules and regulations closely. The better they are at maintaining social distancing practices among clientele, the more likely the restaurant can stay safe--and remain open. Staff may also have some ideas of their own to add about cutting costs that you can include in your reopening plan.

7. Accept Online Orders

If you have been accepting online orders, continue to do so. If you haven't, now is the ideal time to start. Remember, not all diners will be returning to restaurants in droves after the quarantine period. Many people are still nervous about venturing into public with a pandemic still underway.

A spike in cases could spell disaster for cities and the non-essential businesses operating in them. By featuring online ordering, restaurants can continue to do business and earn income even if the restaurant is forced to close again.

Online ordering is now an essential service and income generator for restaurants. Cuboh can help you streamline your online ordering process with its all-in-one capabilities. Contact us to learn more and make us part of your reopening plan.

Tips to Handle Increased Competition as More Restaurants Reopen

The restaurant industry took some of the biggest hits during the global shutdowns to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the health and safety of community members is the top priority, restaurant owners had to make dramatic adjustments to stay in business through the pandemic. Now, as the world starts to get a little more back to normal, restaurants are starting to open their doors back up for in-person dining rather than just takeout and delivery orders.

This is great news for these businesses in so many states, but if you run a small restaurant, you may be wondering how you can rise above the competition as places start to reopen.

Competition is a healthy part of owning any business. It helps make you the best you can be to find success compared to the other places on the market.

So, as other restaurants begin to reopen around you, it's time to rise to the challenge and find ways to help your eatery stand out. Keep up with your mobile ordering, offer safe, socially-distanced indoor options, or find ways to offer discounts or loyalty programs for people who have stuck with you during this unprecedented time.

Let's take a look at a few more tips and tricks to help you manage the competition as the world returns to a sense of normality.

Continue With Delivery And Takeout Options

For months, gatherings of more than ten people have been completely out of the question. This meant many dining rooms at restaurants remained empty, but the kitchen was still hard at work.

Chances are, you became familiar with online ordering, delivery, and curbside pickup. Just because restaurants are reopening for dine-in guests doesn't mean you have to completely abandon these other options. In fact, you can continue to get great business and beat the competition by keeping your online ordering and pickup options readily available.

Online ordering has never been easier for customers or for restaurant owners.

Thanks to multiple third-party apps and your restaurant website, customers can place orders and make online payments to receive their food. Mobile apps like GrubHub, Postmates, Uber Eats, ChowNow, and more allow customers to order delivery from a number of different vendors.

Your restaurant can participate in this delivery system to get more business than your own website may draw in.

Cuboh offers key features that can help you become the best restaurant for curbside pickup or delivery. Once you get that reputation, you can blow the competition out of the water.

Increase Outdoor Seating Opportunities

As restaurants begin to reopen, chances are that there will still be some restrictions for your setup to keep everyone safe.

You may have to limit your number of reservations to keep up with social distancing requirements. You may be able to take unlimited orders online but not in person. However, there are ways to get creative and increase your opportunities to welcome in-person diners. If you've never invested in outdoor seating before, this may be the time to do so.

Consider setting up an outdoor awning in the parking lot or adding a few tables in front of the entrance. Even a few extra tables can help you increase your seating options and help customers feel comfortable dining outdoors.

Make It Obvious That You Are Open

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Marketing has always been an important tool for restaurants of all sizes.

In these unprecedented times, your marketing strategies are a great way to let customers know that you are indeed open and ready for business. Post on social media about your new hours and that you're ready to welcome in guests for table reservations and in-person dining. Even investing in signs that can hang in your windows telling people you're open can send a great message.

These tips may seem like a no-brainer, but they can be helpful to get the word out that your small restaurant is open for business. A small additional cost for your marketing will go a long way toward getting people to your restaurant.

Offer Promotions For Loyal Customers

Another option to stay ahead of the curve is to offer promotions or discounts.

This can go a long way for loyal customers who have stuck with you during the pandemic. Consider offering a coupon for $10 off in-person dining for every third online order someone places.

Or get creative with other custom loyalty programs. Your customer base is who helps your small business thrive, and they are the best way to bring new customers through the door. By offering them some promotions as a way to say thank you, you're showing them you care and fostering further customer loyalty.

This is great as the competition starts to reopen because you have customers you can count on, no matter what.

Keep Doing Your Thing

It's easy to get distracted by what the competition is doing.

You may get easily intimidated by grand reopening events or crazy promotions that other restaurants start doing. However, the best way to rise above the competition is to simply keep doing your thing. Don't get spooked and start changing everything to try to keep up.

Oftentimes, you'll get so focused on rolling out a new menu, drawing in new customers, or hosting big events that you'll lose the unique charm of your original restaurant. Plus, the new changes aren't always as good as the food and atmosphere you've spent months and years perfecting.

You need to keep the integrity of your restaurant and keep creating great food, experiences, and customer support. Get the word out, and utilize different ordering options, but don't forget your ultimate purpose. During the height of the pandemic, so many people felt alone and helpless. If you can continue offering them a good meal and some nice company, they will appreciate that and continue to support your restaurant.

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