With COVID-19 cases beginning to level off in parts of the country, some states are allowing restaurants to reopen their dine-in services. To eliminate the risk of your customers and employees becoming infected with the virus, it’s important to always encourage social distancing.

When creating a social distancing plan, check your local regulations and state guidelines. Many locations have different regulations in place that restaurants must follow in order to operate. However, if you feel the social distancing regulations in your area are too loose, feel free to create stricter regulations for your establishment. In this detailed guide, we provide you with a number of ways on how to practice social distancing in your restaurant to guarantee everyone feels comfortable and safe.

1. Use Floor Decals

Placing floor stickers throughout your establishment ensures that customers stay 6-feet apart from each other at all times and allows you to direct traffic. For instance, when patrons visit your restaurant to pick up take out orders, floor decals provide them with an easy way to understand where the line begins and encourages them to practice social distancing. Floor markers can be used near cash registers, entrances, restrooms, tables, and other areas throughout your business.

2. Create Occupancy Restrictions

Reopening dine-in services at limited occupancy may not be ideal for some restaurant owners because they feel it’s not enough to cover the overhead. However, it keeps your staff members safe and encourages customers to dine at your restaurant again. Operating at limited occupancy also offers a way for your business to generate some sort of revenue until it’s safe to operate at maximum occupancy.

Many locations have different occupancy regulations that restaurants must follow in order to operate. The occupancy percentages for each state varies and cities within the same state may have different guidelines. Ensure that you’re in line with any local regulations or laws before creating an occupancy restriction that’s right for your business.

3. Rearrange Tables

Space tables at least 6 feet apart to guarantee that social distancing guidelines are being practiced in your establishment. If it’s difficult to space out tables due to the limited space in your dining area, you can remove some tables to create additional space. Depending on your city, you may be able to move some of these tables outdoors to create additional seating areas.

Establishments with bars should consider removing bar stools. This will prevent customers from ordering drinks and gathering at the bar while waiting to be seated. It also allows bartenders to comfortably prepare drinks and easily follow social distancing regulations.

4. Limit Party Sizes

Many states have implemented a rule that limits the number of people that can dine together at a table. If you believe that number is too high and should be reduced to keep staff members and patrons safe, feel free to create your own seating guidelines.

When a party with more than the number of people you permit to dine together asks for a table, simply split their group into multiple tables that are 6 feet apart. Although it may not be ideal for large parties, it allows them to dine at your restaurant comfortably while following your social distancing regulations.

5. Designate Areas For Customers To Wait For Tables

With limited occupancy at your establishment, you’ll likely have multiple parties waiting to be seated. This makes it important to design a process that ensures guests stay separated while waiting for their tables.

To encourage social distancing, you can place floor markings in waiting areas or in your outdoor area. It guarantees that parties stay separated and prevents large crowds from waiting for tables inside the restaurant. If you do not feel comfortable having guests waiting for tables near entrances and exits, you can also inform them to wait for tables in their cars. When their tables are ready, you can simply call or text them.

6. Eliminate In-Person Staff Meetings

Restaurant owners and managers typically host daily staff meetings. To avoid everyone from gathering around in the kitchen or breakroom, replace these meetings with video calls or phone calls. If some employees are unable to attend the meeting, send an email informing them of what was discussed so that everyone is on the same page.

7. Redesign Workstations

In the kitchen, employees are usually completing tasks right next to or in front of each other. To encourage social distancing in the kitchen, stagger workstations so staff members are at least 6 feet apart. If you are unable to redesign workstations due to the limited space, require employees to wear face coverings at all times and frequently sanitize their workspace.

8. Reduce Customer and Employee Interactions

It can be difficult to decrease the number of times your employees interact with customers because they typically seat guests at their tables, take orders, serve meals, and accept payments. However, there are a couple of ways to decrease face-to-face interactions to keep everyone safe.

Use Mobile Menus

To eliminate the need for hosts and servers to hand out menus to customers, provide every guest with mobile access to your menu. Ensure that the menu is mobile-friendly and easily accessible on the restaurant’s app or website. Having an online menu also allows patrons to plan their meals in advance so they can quickly place orders and you can maximize table turnover rates in your establishment.

Encourage Mobile Orders And Payments

Provide guests with a simple way to order and pay for food on your app or website. This allows them to place orders before arriving at your establishment so they don’t have to wait in line or for a server to take their orders. Accepting mobile order and payments also provides patrons with a quick way to pay for meals and eliminates unnecessary face-to-face interactions.

9. Separate Entrances From Exits

Consider creating a plan that separates the entrance of your establishment from the exit. Doing so will prevent customers that are entering and leaving your restaurant from crossing paths and accidentally bumping into each other. You can use floor decals or post signs on doors to let patrons know how to safely enter and exit your restaurant.

10. Continue To Offer Meals For Take Out and Delivery

The majority of foodservice establishments were accepting food orders for take out and delivery when stay-at-home orders were in place. Although some states are allowing businesses to reopen their dine-in services, restaurants should continue to offer meals for take out and delivery. There are many individuals who may not feel comfortable enough to dine at your restaurant and this allows them to continue practicing social distancing at home while enjoying their favorite meals.

Keep Everyone Safe!

If your establishment is reopening its dine-in services, it’s essential that you create a social distancing plan to guarantee the safety of your customers and employees. When organizing a plan, check the state guidelines and local regulations in your area to ensure you follow all the mandates in place. It’s also important to make adjustments to your restaurant’s layout that makes it easy for everyone to practice social distancing. And don’t forget, you can never be too careful or safe!