Restaurants in parts of the country are slowly starting to re-open, as the nation looks to turn a corner on the Coronavirus outbreak. While we all hope for smooth sailing during these re-openings, welcoming guests after an extended closure is never an easy feat —even in the most ideal circumstances. And given the current need for heightened public safety measures, re-opening is going to be an even larger obstacle for most restaurants. Aside from health and food safety concerns, there are numerous other ‘to-do’s’ in re-opening a restaurant. In anticipation of states beginning to re-open, we’ve assembled a handy cheat sheet for your bar or restaurant's big day.
Read the NRA Report
Recently, the National Restaurant Association issued a free, downloadable report for all restaurants and bars that will be re-opening. This handy document has a focus on food safety and ambient wellness, featuring a list of helpful procedures to minimize risk during a re-opening. This report covers some potentially-overlooked areas of your establishment, with useful tips including:
Between seatings, clean and sanitize table condiments, digital ordering devices, check presenters, self-service areas, tabletops, and common touch areas
Invest in touchless payment devices
Consider touchless hand sanitizing solutions
Discard paper menus after each customer use
We suggest heading on over to the NRA website to read the full 10-page document. As well, consider printing out copies to distribute amongst staff before re-opening.
Staff Up (Carefully)
This part’s tricky. Obviously we all would like to give everyone their jobs back and bring back every single furloughed employee. Chances are, that isn’t gonna happen (not yet, anyways). And while we recognize that immediately re-hiring everyone is mostly out-of-the-question, we also suggest against running a skeleton crew. Now more than ever, it’s important that patrons feel taken care of when they dine at your establishment. We suggest hiring back your most trusted, high-performing employees to begin with -- those team members that have a tendency to go above-and-beyond. If you are able, try designating some ‘on-call’ employees as well.
Temper Your Expectations
There’s no telling what kinds of numbers a re-opening will bring. While we don’t expect the first day back to break any sales records, there’s really no way to know what will happen. So, we suggest tempering your expectations. Don’t expect the community to welcome your restaurant or bar back with open arms -- during these uncertain times, consumers are rightfully going to be tepid-at-best about the idea of going out. Some consumers may see this opening as premature and will want to stay sheltered-in-place for the time being.
In these times of consumer uncertainty, it’s going to be especially important to be malleable and adapt to changes as they come down the pipeline. Re-opening your establishment isn’t necessarily going to be smooth sailing, so it’s important to remain level-headed throughout the process. It will take time for consumers and employees alike to re-discover the rhythm that made your bar or restaurant work. Customers may be inclined to be more demanding, and employees have every right to be equally tentative about returning to work amidst the outbreak. It’s important to be patient throughout the re-opening process, with everyone (and everything) involved.
Show Your Safety
When customers return to your restaurant or bar, they’re going to have pretty high expectations. And not just for fantastic service, food, and drinks -- but also for impeccable safety standards. As discussed in the NRA report, exercising visible safety procedures is going to be hugely important moving forward. Don’t expect much good faith from your patrons -- they are going to want to see firsthand that your establishment is putting safety as a top priority. You may want to consider complementary hand-sanitizer bottles at each table. Requiring staff to wear masks and gloves is another visible safety precaution that can help put customers’ minds at ease. We expect that some restaurants may even perform temperature checks for patrons at the door before they are allowed to enter.
No matter what safety procedures and precautions you select, we suggest making sure that your staff is being visibly safe. Not only will this help protect the well-being of your employees and customers, but it may also allow customers to relax just a bit.
Talk to Your Purveyors
While your restaurant may have all its ducks in a row for re-opening, there’s a whole supply chain that is still feeling the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. So, before you make any concrete plans to open your doors, we suggest meeting with each of your purveyors. Many products may be experiencing a shortage in supply, and that could drastically affect what you are able to offer on your menu. Further, you may find that suppliers are having trouble with transportation, causing delays in order fulfillment. This all needs to be considered before you open.
To help soften the blow of these problems, you may consider a limited menu, using only ingredients and products that you are guaranteed to have in stock.
Out With the Old
For some of us, our restaurants have been sitting untouched for the past month or so. Chances are, they could probably use some TLC. We suggest going through your inventory to see what products need to be tossed before re-opening. Now more than ever, these types of food safety precautions are super-important. While you don’t need to remodel your entire space, a little spring cleaning could be just the thing to kick the tires and light the fires at your bar or restaurant.
Don’t Get Too Fancy
It may be tempting to look at this as an opportunity to redefine your brand. After all, experimenting and getting creative is truly one of the best parts of owning a bar or restaurant. Unfortunately, now just isn’t the time. As customers tentatively begin to visit their old favorites, they are going to be looking for just that -- their old favorites. Stick to what you do best for now.
Last but certainly not least -- employee and customer safety should be your number 1 priority for reopening. As an industry, F + B can definitely turn a corner on the coronavirus, but to do that, we need to prioritize safety over everything. As a rule of thumb for re-opening, virtually no safety measures are going to be too extreme or too over-the-top.
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