With the unforeseen challenges brought on by the current global crisis, preparing your business for a safe reopening is essential. While the restaurant industry has taken a major hit, this downtime can give small to medium businesses a chance to revamp operations, keeping in mind the new safety and health standards. As you navigate these unchartered waters of uncertainty and change, being as prepared as possible for your restaurant reopening will give your business the boost it needs to maintain a steady reputation in the neighborhood—and an ongoing revenue stream.
Make changes to the restaurant for safety
In order to keep customers and employees safe, always follow the latest CDC guidelines in preparing for closing and reopening a business. Before your restaurant reopening announcement, follow a strict cleaning regimen and adherence to social distancing protocols.
Since these regulations are a new normal for both customers and employees, make it easier for everyone by clearly communicating changes and increase signage for safety. Place six-foot markers on the floor where customers will line up and include step-by-step handwashing instructions in restrooms.
Along with signage, train staff to communicate with customers on how to follow and enforce the new safety guidelines. Update your table layout to make customers feel more comfortable while also accommodating the new social distancing protocols.
Varying from state to state, the restaurant reopening process will unfold in several phases. In some states, such as Florida, Phase I allows dine-in customers for restaurants whose seating capacity is reduced by 50%. Some regulations include no parties of 10 people or more; restaurants might also be required to limit the number of patrons inside waiting areas.
Placing hand sanitizer in high-traffic areas like doorways and individual tables is a smart move that many customers will appreciate. People will also take notice of other sanitary upgrades such as no-touch garbage cans in the kitchen and restrooms, toilets with automatic flushing, and automatic restroom doors.
Protecting & training employees
If you’re experiencing slower business than usual during this period, use this time to update training videos and manuals with the latest safety protocols. Include step-by-step instructions on important tasks in the kitchen and dining room. Stay up to date on the latest CDC safety guidelines, especially since the situation continues to develop with new changes every day.
According to recently released CDC guidelines for restaurants reopening their dining service, any employee that is sick should stay home. The CDC recommends screening employees before work by taking their temperature—anyone with a fever should be sent home and tested. Additionally, the CDC advises that all restaurant staff wear clean and sanitized masks and gloves.
Staff should also wash their hands throughout the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before handling food and after using the restroom. Hand washing is also important after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is a safe alternative.
A recent survey by Washington State University found that a significant number of people reported that they would feel more comfortable with restaurant staff wearing gloves and masks. The DoorDash team and the CDC advise a pro-mask policy among staff—not only are you helping to protect customers and employees, but you will also make your customers feel more at ease.
Similar to safety guideline signage for customers, you should also update signs around the kitchen and staff areas to reinforce the new safety protocols. For more information on safety guidelines and procedures for restaurants, visit the CDC website and consult their detailed guide. You can also get ideas and insights from our blog, “The New Normal For Restaurants,” which outlines the latest trends and predictions for the restaurant industry's future.
Connect with your customers
Keeping your customers in the loop during uncertain times is key to bringing back loyal patrons when you officially reopen. If you don't communicate with your customers, they may think your restaurant is shut down for good. Social media, emails, and your website are all excellent channels for your restaurant reopening announcement. Consider every possible way to reach all demographics, such as Google ads, Facebook ads, direct mail postcards, and flyers.
Whether you are communicating your business reopening announcement or other updates throughout this period, be sure to adjust the tone to what works for your brand and target audience. For example, if it makes sense for your brand, feel free to keep your messages lighthearted and fun by including new recipes you’re developing or videos of at-home cooking tips, since your customers may be looking for entertainment.
Continue to give customers more takeout & delivery options
Even when things go back to a new normal, people will be in the habit of ordering out and may want to continue social distancing. Keeping these new consumer trends in mind, implementing permanent options for takeout and delivery will help you grow your business for the long term.
One strategy for boosting your delivery sales is to experiment with more practical menu options such as a meal for five, which can include several dishes for a family instead of the traditional individual entree orders. When people order food delivery, they're looking for both safety and convenience. Another benefit of larger orders is that you save on packaging while also generating revenue for several meals rather than the usual one or two entrees.
Promote gift cards
According to Donald Burns from The Restaurant Coach, only 80% of gift cards are redeemed, leaving the rest as pure profit. Additionally, gift cards are a great addition to your business plan because they will create revenue streams until things go back to a new normal without any overhead costs. Try different promotions, such as offering 10% off gift card purchases of $50 or more. Communicate the offer through email and social media as a way for customers to support your business.
Staying prepared for your restaurant reopening and making adjustments for safety and convenience will allow your restaurant to maintain the trust and loyalty of customers as they get used to the idea of dining in restaurants again.
Hungry for more of the latest restaurant industry trends? Check out our Resources page for expert tips and guides, and grow your business with delivery and pickup sales by signing up for DoorDash for Merchants today.