With states lifting stay-at-home orders, operators find themselves ready to get back to work. However, getting things back to normal is still going to take a while. The pandemic is still at large and customers are concerned about social distancing, safe handling, and sanitation now more than ever. Serving excellent food will no longer be the only requirement of a great restaurant. The health standards and safety procedures restaurants are implementing during reopening are also being evaluated by customers. This is why it is crucial to meet every expectation during the reopening stages in order to ensure the longevity of your establishment.

Before unlocking your restaurant’s doors, you will first want to inform yourself of all the regulations and restrictions that are required for foodservice establishments in your area. Then, take a look at our helpful tips for reopening your restaurant to make sure everything is set for reactivating your operations.

Employee Safety & Hygiene

Your first concern should be how to keep your staff and customers safe and healthy. In order to do so, you’ll need to revisit your safety and sanitation practices. Make sure you have implemented the following guidelines to ensure optimum cleanliness:

  • Employees should regularly wash hands throughout their shift
  • Employees should always wash hands after handling food, touching a high-contact surface, after sneezing or coughing, and after using the restroom
  • Ensure cleaning agents, sanitizing stations, soap, and any other cleaning equipment are fully stocked and functioning
  • Have masks, gloves, and any other required PPE available for your staff
  • Regularly sanitize high-contact surfaces
  • Prohibit handshakes and other forms of physical contact
  • Monitor employees' temperatures
  • Send staff members showing symptoms of illness home
  • Consider rotating work schedules to split staff and have fewer people working at different hours

Customer Safety & Sanitation

When it comes to customer safety, the most important thing to remember is social distancing. Keeping customers at a safe distance from each other, and also distanced from your employees, will minimize person-to-person contact. Not to mention, customers will notice that you are practicing social distancing and will feel safe in your establishment’s environment. Take these steps to ensure everyone in your restaurant is kept at a safe distance:

  • Space tables 6 feet apart or seat customers at every other table if relocating tables is not possible
  • Consider distributing masks and other PPE to dine-in guests
  • Create sanitizing stations stocked with hand sanitizer or wipes for both customers and staff
  • Offer disposable menus and cutlery
  • Provide guests with a cashless way to pay for meals
  • Offer curbside pickup, drive-through, and delivery options in addition to dine-in service
  • Prohibit the use of buffets or self-service areas

Upgrade Equipment & Supplies

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Any equipment that can cause a health hazard should be replaced or not used until it’s repaired. Supplies that generate a lot of contact, such as menus or shared condiment bottles, should not be used. Take a look at the following suggestions for upgrading your equipment and supplies:

  • Make sure your ventilation, heating, and air conditioning is working properly
  • Provide customers with cooling fans if you have an outdoor dining area
  • Create space for storing a bulk amount of take out packaging
  • Create outside areas for curbside pickup
  • Frequently sanitize touch screen kiosks
  • Eliminate buffets, bars, and communal condiment areas
  • Replace reusable utensils with disposable utensils
  • Make sure all fire alarms are working properly

What If An Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19?

You should have a backup plan ready in case one of your employees tests positive for the virus. Remember, you can never be too careful. Create an environment in which your employees feel safe to tell you they are feeling under the weather. Make sure you take the following steps in order to control the situation:

  • Instruct your employees to seek proper healthcare if they are showing symptoms of illness.
  • Alert other employees that a staff member has contracted the virus and instruct employees that have come into contact with that person to go home and self-quarantine or seek medical help.
  • Alert customers through social media that a staff member has the virus and inform them of the times the employee was present at the restaurant. This will help customers determine if they should get checked for the virus.

During the initial reopening stages, you will find that everything in your business will revolve around the coronavirus. While this can be stressful at times, remember that it is only temporary and that reopening your restaurant is one of the first steps to getting things back to normal. Think of this as a time to optimize your restaurant and make it better than it was before.