This guide lays out the next steps to re-opening restaurants. It helps operators prepare for the days before re-opening, from preparing physical space, to onboarding staff, as well as how to get the word out, and how to generate new streams of revenue while business returns to levels before theCoronavirus pandemicDownload a PDF
This guide is meant to collect general resources and steps necessary to successfully reopen your business. While not comprehensive, it should cover the main areas to focus on when restarting:
Business will be slow for a while as restrictions get slowly lifted and traffic ramps back up. As a result of health and economic concerns, expect a new “normal”to be reality.
A slow ramp up will need to be accounted for in re-opening plans—you will need to think differently about technology, cost controls, menus, service, operations, and more. You’ll have to prepare customers, staff, and your business to grow sales over months, much like anew concept. It will be a while before restaurants and bars are full again, and diners will likely be more cautious of total spend for the foreseeable future.
It’s always important to consult your profit and loss statement to gauge your restaurant’s performance over time, but as prep to reopen following the pandemic, your P&L will help you make calls about where your business needs to lean in and pull back.
If you stayed open for off-premise service, or turned your restaurant into a market or meal-kit shop, now is the time to take stock of how those efforts affected your bottom line. Ask yourself:
One potential silver lining of the pandemic is that it may have revealed elements of your business that aren’t as essential as you thought. Ask yourself:
The landscape is shifting rapidly, and you’re going to be more busy than ever. Schedule regular P&L reviews at shorter-than-normal intervals so you can adapt as necessary if conditions change.
As you plan to reopen, estimate your operating expenses to determine how much cash you’ll need to run your business for the startup period.
Operators will need to prioritize sanitation and cleaning above all else. Clean equipment, surfaces, walk-ins, appliances, doors and handles, and any other surface staff and guests come into contact with. Schedule hood cleaning if hired out. Beyond cleaning, ensure your kitchen is stocked with cleaning supplies and equipment to keep your staff safe.
Once the kitchen and dining room are properly cleaned and sanitized, take stock of what inventory is still available, and begin to prepare your order with your food distributor. See below for guidelines on preparing an opening menu.
Lastly, ensure all equipment is working properly and perform or schedule maintenance as needed.
Sanitization of the kitchen is only the first step, as one can imagine. The dining room will be just as important, and optics will matter. Clean and sanitize menus, stations throughout the restaurant, and ensure glassware, silverware, dish wash is spotless to provide guests with a sense of cleanliness and safety. Clean bathrooms from top to bottom. Scrub floors, wash window sand doors, and clear any debris from the outside of your establishment.
Think about how guests can literally see your sanitation practices and procedures by setting up signs that communicate processes to staff and customers, with stations throughout the operation.You may also want to consider increasing bathroom cleanliness procedures during re-opening.
But cleanliness is only the first step. The set-up of your dining room will be just as important to reimagine and adjust.Consumers will be timid about dining out, and space will make them feel more comfortable. It’s more than likely that traffic will continue to be down for several months, so take this time to space out tables and barstools to CDC recommendations, as well as putting fewer people at larger tables, if possible. If you don’t have space to move chairs and tables out of your dining space, consider putting “reserved” signs on every other table, so diners know where not to sit.
Make sure utilities are paid and running:
Get your technology back online:
Rebuild trust with your customers by establishing comprehensive employee health policies, instituting stringent sanitation practices, and implementing new social distancing tactics.
Consumer behaviors have been deeply impacted by the crisis, and some of changes we are seeing today will likely continue for months until a feeling of “normal” returns. Be prepared to adapt your service to new diner needs:
Fear of public spaces: More consumers will be weary of infection in the coming months. Expectations around social distancing will be carried on to public spaces even after some restrictions are lifted.
Increased vigilance over hygiene: Most consumers will become intolerant of lapses in hygiene from servers, kitchen staff, and other diners.
Limited spending: Many diners will be affected by the economic impact of the pandemic. They will likely seek affordable options when possible, and will likely pass on expensive choices. Those not on a budget will be willing to spend on items that reduce risks and exposure and contribute to their wellness.
Increased digital interactions: Consumers are using digital tools to order food, interact with friends and family, host virtual happy hours, and take virtual classes. After the crisis they will expect the restaurants they visit to be as tech savvy as they are.
Increased take-out, delivery, and home-prepared meals: General grocery spending continues to climb, as well as at-home entertainment activities, consumers will form new habits around this, and will still seek it occasionally after the crisis.
Desire to connect: Consumers are feeling isolated, and miss socializing despite quickly adapting to utilize technology and connecting more with friends and family.Desire to help: Many diners are willing to spend money on things that are contributing to the greater good—what they deem as providing hope or contributing to others.
These behaviors mean that health, safety, and hygiene will be top of mind, more than ever before, and not only for customers, but for staff. You will need to consider these behaviors within your operations, messaging, training, and onboarding.
This is a great time to start thinking about what your offerings should include once dine-in service resumes. Work with your chef to identify items that were underperforming before the pandemic, and consider taking this opportunity to replace them—or cut them entirely. If you’re adding new revenue streams, use this time to develop the connection between those new offerings and your existing on-premise items.
You will need to evaluate your menu and cater it to accommodate for a slow ramp-up (at first), different diner expectations, and new buying behaviors. There are a few things to consider when thinking about your reopening menu: the dishes you’ll offer, the ways diners will buy from you, and the cost of the dishes.
These should be a subset of your normal menu, think of items that will travel well, that can be made into meal kits, and that will be quicker bites for people that choose to dine in. Any dish that requires minimal handling after cooking will be perceived as safer by staff and diners.
As stated earlier, consumers will likely not rush to dine-in. While some folks will choose to eat in, you’ll still have to offer a variety of service styles for diners to purchase your food. Consider turning some recipes into meal kits and adapting certain items to travel better for delivery or pickup. Remember that fewer folks will dine-in, and those that do may want to spend less time inside.
Most operators will come back online with limited cash and/or with the help of loans. You’ll have to understand how to optimize the business performance of your menu. Ask your GFS sales representative about the best product options for your menu, to understand which items may have the biggest impact on your bottom line.
Take inventory of what you already have and, based on the menu changes you’ve decided, place an order with your distributors to stock your kitchen back up. Your GFS sales rep can help identify the best product mix to match your needs.
Keep the following in mind when rolling out your menu after you have decided the mix of items for your menu, the service styles you will offer, and chosen the right products for your applications:
As more restaurants begin planning to reopen their dining rooms, a key question will be how to bring staff back online. Safety and hygiene, payroll, rehiring, training, and scheduling will have to be sorted out. This may also be a good time to reassess your team structure and management approach.
You will need to assemble your team for reopening. A lot of operators have unfortunately had to deal with layoffs and furloughs. To bring your team back online consider the following:
Your existing staff will need new training on safety, hygiene, and sanitation, to reduce risks associated with COVID-19. New team members will need to be fully trained, and both new and experienced team members will need to become familiar with changes to your menu and offerings.
Make Health and Safety a Part of Your Culture and Standards:
Forget standard marketing channels. They’re costly, and because consumers are at home, your focus should be on digital channels.If you haven’t been maintaining a presence online, now is the time to get going. If you have, now it’s time to generate hype and excitement about your return. Regardless of where you are in your journey, experts do tell us that during crises, advertising is one thing NOT to reduce. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money, either.
If you’re not sure where to start, or where your customers are spending time, use this guide to help you decide.