The Omicron variant continues to spread worldwide, leaving many restaurant owners wondering how to operate their business while keeping customers and staff safe.
With cases surging and restaurants temporarily closing worldwide, we spoke with two restaurant operators for their insights on keeping staff and customers safe and gathered tips for managing their stores.
Staff safety first
Beatrice Ajaero opened Nneji, a West African restaurant, in June 2020. The debut was during the first peak of COVID-19 in New York City — and her restaurant was near one of the highest infection rates in the city. Beatrice quickly adapted and modified her restaurant to a takeout-only operation, even though Nneji was designed for a communal experience.
Beatrice manages a small restaurant with 4-5 staff, yet keeping safety first for employees while fulfilling customer orders hasn't been easy. Beyond signing up for newsletters and joining community organizations to keep updated on changing regulations, she’s been creative and resourceful about how to best share a small space with her team. Here are some of the changes Beatrice implemented when Omicron began to spread:
Streamline prep and cooking time. For Beatrice, redesigning how her staff cooked in the kitchen was key. “We thought of the different recipes and what ingredients cut across a lot of our dishes, then prepped those out in a very isolated way.” This reduced the amount of time needed to create dishes and the number of staff in the kitchen at any given time.
Instead of taking a recipe and cooking the whole thing at once, we use the prep space so that we could take care of ingredients that need more prep time.
Maintain a strict inventory schedule. Beatrice is keen on minimizing staff interaction with outside vendors and aligns her prep and inventory days for maximum efficiency. “Having a rigid inventory system allows us to bring in, pack, and dispose of items quickly,” she says.
Creatively expand beyond PPE. Beatrice knows that her staff’s mental health is paramount and works to create a positive environment. “Everyone on the team is thinking not just about themselves and their work, but all the people who rely on them,” Beatrice says. She often rotates the restaurant’s playlist with staff favorites and builds in additional breaks for staff to get some fresh air and alone time in every shift. “These are little things but they can give the team renewed energy, especially during this time.”
Redefining the customer experience
Benny Borsakian is the owner of Benny’s Tacos & Rotisserie Chicken, with 90 employees and three locations throughout the Los Angeles area. Like many owners, supply chain issues and the rising cost of goods have cut into his bottom line — but Benny continues to invest in safety measures, hiring a nightly disinfecting crew for each location. In addition to daily temperature checks for staff and enforcing masks, Benny mitigated the number of in-person customers at each location. Read on below to hear from Benny about how he’s adjusted operations:
Minimize indoor customers. Each restaurant is strict about asking customers to practice social distancing and instructs customers to wait outside until their name is called. “We don't want to get people sick, close our store down, or send employees home,” Benny says.
Harness online ordering. Benny credits Storefront, a commission-free online ordering platform, for keeping his businesses running and staff employed. By having another touchpoint for customers to order, Benny brings in additional revenue without increasing customer interaction. “We’re doing everything we can to protect our customers and employees,” Benny says.
We did some specials with DoorDash, and that helped us to get more orders in for employees to continue working.
Provide delivery incentives. Benny runs promotions for existing and new customers, using their most popular items. “A lot of people love our churros, and for every $20 order we gave one or two churros to customers,” Benny says.
DoorDash Merchant resources & tips
Like Beatrice and Benny, many restaurant owners have pivoted their operations due to the Omicron outbreak. DoorDash has compiled additional resources below to help your business run safely and efficiently during this difficult time.
If you need flexibility due to reduced staff availability or supply chain issues:
Temporarily pause orders. If your kitchen is overwhelmed, you can use the DoorDash Tablet to set your kitchen to busy, which adds in extra prep time, or temporarily pause orders. Don’t have a tablet? You can temporarily deactivate your store in the Merchant Portal.
Update hours. If you need to adjust store hours for a longer period, you can do that in the Merchant Portal by following these instructions.
If you need to simplify business management:
Integrate your POS. If you’re using DoorDash and a point-of-sale (POS) system, we can set up an integration so you receive DoorDash orders directly on your POS. Browse integrations available or if you are already a partner, request an integration.
Talk to your Merchant Experience Partner. Your Merchant Experience Partner is your dedicated point-of-contact for all account-related needs. You can reach them at email@example.com or in the Merchant Portal Help Form.
Keep your staff safe:
Mask up. Our universal mask mandate remains in place for our entire community — including merchants, Dashers, and customers. We’re continuing to remind Dashers to wear masks when picking up and dropping off orders. You can follow these instructions to give feedback to Dashers.
Stock up on PPE. Get safety starter kits, barriers, sanitizer, and more in the DoorDash Store.
If your questions aren’t covered here, please visit our COVID-19 Help Page for more guidance and frequently asked questions. You can also reach out to your dedicated Merchant Experience Partner firstname.lastname@example.org or in the Merchant Portal Help Form for specialized account-related support.
Your business is an integral part of the community—and we want to do our part in keeping you and your loved ones safe as we navigate Omicron together.