Hospitality managers and business owners are facing quite some challenges these days, and many industry operators are trying to find out the perfect plan to reopen their restaurant. Since the checklist of things to do can be overwhelming at times - from having to reorganize your space or inventory to retrieving and filling out the latest required documentation - the Choco team is here to help you collect all pieces - we want to make sure you're not missing out on anything, giving you some useful tips that can come in handy when it comes to opening your restaurant during the pandemic.
Rethinking your space and dining experience
According to federal and local legislation, the dining experience at your restaurant will not be the same as it used to. After being up to date with these dispositions, putting an emphasis on safety should be on top of your checklist. Here is what this entails.
Cleaning should be on top of your priority list, especially when your space has been closed for a long time. Make sure to clean and sanitize all items and surfaces (especially those that are usually overlooked like drawers, backsplashes, or high shelves). This preliminary phase can also be useful to check the maintenance status of your back of house equipment such as your oven or ventilation system: make sure that everything is running clean and safe before the starting day of service when things will be busier.
Organize the number and disposition of tables according to your state or city rules when it comes to reducing seating capacity of the restaurant (likely to be reduced at 25%-50%), limiting the number of guests per table, and maintaining a minimum safety distance. Along with this, your space design might need a little bit of adjustment before opening back, from having to place plexiglass separators at the cash-counter and in between tables to putting signage and stickers for safe viability and queuing. Your restaurant might keep offering takeout and delivery options depending on the type of business. This entails that your space has to have an adequate plan to allow customers and operators to move around safely - it’s all about creating the correct flow for operations and customer experience. Also, keep an eye for details when it comes to placing the right objects within your restaurant...no, we're not just reminding you of setting up a station with hand sanitizer at your main door or bathroom entrance. We're also referring to avoiding placing items that are frequently touched, which means you might want to avoid placing napkins dispensers or condiments on the dining table.
Always put safety rules first when rethinking the restaurant experience design. Consider organizing temperature checks at the entrance of your restaurant for customers, staff, suppliers, and anyone stepping into your door. To do this, you might want to purchase a no touchless thermometer and charge your host or waiter of doing this before getting people to leave their personal information on sheets or digitally. You also might want to establish a plan for reservations or to have a plan for single-use or digital menus with QR codes, as well as communicate these changes to your guests as part of your safety plan - which can ultimately contribute to positive marketing of your business and build trust among your customers.
Reassessing your menu and checking your inventory
After thinking about space and experience design, you’ll have to focus on your menu offer and inventory. Before you think of creative tasting menu ideas, let’s dive into this topic to make sure everything will flow smoothly, step-by-step.
There are a few things you should check before deciding on your menu offer. For example, you should take a look at your latest sales report from when your restaurant was offering open to see what were the most popular items - better to look at a report from the same season while guaranteeing that your produce supply can be maintained.
For this reason, you might want to get in touch with your vendors and chat with them to understand how they’re doing and what’s available (just a little reminder: the Choco app can help you make the communication and ordering smoother by keeping everything in one place).
Understanding your customers is also particularly crucial during these times, especially for those restaurants whose clientele was made up of tourists or people from all over the city. These days you will more likely focus on your neighborhood, and for this reason, you might have to change your offer. This means that you might want to consider offering family-meals and tailor your menu offer according to those demographics around your area.
Organize an inventory check, making sure you’re looking at all food items and cleaning products expiration date, and that you have or purchase EPA-approved cleaning products or single-use masks and gloves for your staff, among all the other necessary supplies. Choose food items according to your current business plan. For example, different opening hours can affect prep times, which means you might want to reduce your menu to maximize your kitchen staff’s efforts and customers' experience.
Staff management is perhaps the most tedious task when it comes to reopening your business during these times. We all know that behind a great restaurant stands a great team - hence, you should allow good work conditions and communication.
Part of your efforts in reopening should be addressed with double-checking the legal requirements to employ your staff, from issuing or updating work contacts, making sure their job descriptions are up to date, considering that your staff members’ roles can change. When opening a conversation with your employees, make sure you’re addressing all the right questions regarding their contact details or related to their status or work hours - you might need to make updates in your payroll system or verify their employment eligibility. Also, when organizing your shifts, make sure you’re making plans leaving adequate room for cleaning turns and adapt the schedule following the federal and local mandates.
When talking to your employees, try to establish an open dialogue to understand their concerns and potential risks of exposure, making sure they are not presenting any symptom and providing them with all the safety protocols needed when it comes to what to do in case of sickness. Organize training sessions or provide the right documentation for your staff to keep practicing social distancing and keeping up with all required hygiene and safety rules, from promoting handwashing to single-use of certain items.
Last but not least on the team management side is mental health. During these challenging times, it is important that you provide a healthy work environment - hence, watch your tone of voice and make sure everyone is treated fairly...and why not add some extra love by suggesting anything that can help your co-workers power up through these days. We all know that working in the restaurant industry entails long shifts and high pressure, and managers should always make sure to give something back to their team - share a compliment, suggest a nice activity...whatever you think it’s best to show you’re there for them.
Everything is now ready. Your menu concept is optimized, your communication with vendors and stuff is back into place, and you finally found an end to your paperwork. Congratulations! But don’t think it’s over. You have to make sure you’re communicating to your customers about your reopening plans. Especially at a time where deliveries and takeout are much more popular, you’ll have to think of your strategy to make people sit and eat at your restaurant
When announcing your reopening plans, make sure that all your online profiles are updated, from displaying new opening hours, communicating safety measures - wearing masks, making reservations -, and promoting your most appealing menu offer. This might be a good occasion to organize a small (and safe) reopening event or offering some special deals or giveaways - along with this, you can invest some budget and run paid ads on your social media to make sure you’re reaching out to your community.
To help you run a successful business during these times, you might also want to download the Choco app - it’s free. With Choco, you can save time in purchasing your products, say goodbye to stacks of paperwork, reduce ordering mistakes, and improve communication with your team and suppliers by keeping everything in one place.