How to reopen your restaurant after the lockdown?

It’s been over 100 days since the lockdown was imposed and restaurants such as yours had to shut down doors for business, and just like that operations, thus revenues were suddenly halted.  During this time, food takeaways and deliveries enabled via online ordering systems for restaurants emerged as the only safe and permissible way to serve customers. But, this hasn’t been enough for most brick and mortar restaurants, their financial burdens have piled up and put them at a risk of permanent shutdown. Therefore, sooner or later, as we slowly escape the grasps of the pandemic, these restaurants have to reopen and ease into normalcy.
While this is good news, utmost care will have to be taken and it will involve planning ahead and accommodating changes to how you run your business. Here are some tips that will help you with the same:

1. Educate yourself.

Stay updated with the latest guidelines for general public, businesses, and industry specific protocols. Pay close attention to local health departments and the hospitality associations. In case you have outlets across multiple states, beware of the individual rules and regulations for each locality. Appoint yourself, a specific employee or a team as your COVID rapid action force to look over the planning and execution of your reopening. 

2. Introduce measures to enable social distancing.

Rearrange your restaurant layout to ensure enough space between tables and reduce the customer seating capacity to comply with the social distancing norms. Install privacy screens between tables, at the bar, etc. if there are shared spaces that can’t be avoided. If possible, add outdoor seating and minimize indoor capacity. Invest in the right technology to allow guests to access menus, order and pay digitally, hence reducing the interactions with your staff.  

3. Envision the operations and instill processes to ensure safety.

Think of how operations will occur and accordingly incorporate processes that are required to maintain safety of staff and guests alike. Introduce barriers if required, stick markers on the floor to manage your queues or draw lines to direct a flow of movement that avoids contact, separate your entry and exit if possible, ensure the availability of sanitizers and hand wash stations across your premises, create a food preparation and handling protocol, and lastly introduce sustainable single-use auxiliaries such as cutlery, straws, etc., provided that it doesn’t hinder the experience much.

4. Pay extra attention to the hygiene and cleanliness at your premises.

Your restaurant has been shut for months, or you’ve only had a chance to access it periodically, therefore the first thing required is thorough cleaning of the premises. Ensure deep cleaning and sanitization of all surfaces, especially the high contact ones such as doorknobs, handles, table tops and chairs. Create a schedule for regular cleaning once you’re open. Put up guidelines and hygiene protocols at multiple locations to remind your staff and guests of the same. Provide protective equipment and gear for your staff, particularly those in the kitchen.

5 . Update your menu if required to fit the limited reopening. 

Despite reopening, a lot will have changed, your restaurant will now have a limited capacity and restricted operation hours, also some food items may not fit well amongst customers given the scenario today. Hence, it might be required for you to revisit your menu. Your business will be slow, therefore you will have to be smart about curbing your overheads, keeping items with common ingredients will help you substantially save up on inventory costs. Also, it is a good time to revisit your existing menu, identifying guest favourites, eliminating the seldomly ordered items. Apart from that, revisit every item from a cost and margins view and make additions and subtractions as required.

6. Check up on your kitchen inventory and revise it as necessary.

Segregate your perishables and reusables, and discard the out of date items. If you’ve revised your menu to fit the circumstances, figure out the requirements of produce that needs to be procured and the frequency of the same. Re-establish connections with your vendors and ensure that your produce is safely sourced, handled and delivered to you. 

7. Announce and market your reopening.

It is essential that you have customers waiting to visit your restaurant once you reopen, you do not want to be starting operations only to realize that there are no customers. Thus, informing customers of your reopening beforehand, creating a buzz, and building their confidence are a must. To begin with, add a signage/ banner at your restaurant's physical location, announcing your launch. Create a hype around the same with a limited guest event, or gimmicks like a waitlist and countdown. If required create offers and incentivize customers to visit. Leverage your social media marketing to keep customers in the loop and in anticipation of the launch. Most importantly, highlight the safety measures taken for the launch by showing customers snippets of work behind-the-scenes.

8. Step up your digital marketing efforts substantially.

It is extremly important to bump up your social media marketing efforts to increase visibility of your restaurant. Take photos and write posts to stay in touch with your customers, ensure you have a content plan prepared to maintain the engagement. If you don’t have a dedicated team, try out free tools on the internet such as Canva and Adobe Spark to easily create fun posts and videos. It is also a great time to start advertising on social media, Facebook and Instagram, to promote your online ordering as well as reopening!


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Anshul Jasani

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