PREPARING YOUR RESTAURANT FOR THE REST OF THE PANDEMIC

Staggered reopening mandates and varying sanitation guidelines from state to state have made operating a safe restaurant during COVID-19 a moving target. With the duration of the virus still unknown, restaurant operators will continue to face new and varying operational challenges. So here are some strategies to help your restaurant learn, prepare and adapt to the rest of the pandemic. 

LEARN FROM THE INITIAL IMPACT

Was your restaurant over or understaffed? Was transitioning to online or to-go ordering a success or failure? Did everyone follow social distancing and mask rules? Your restaurant can learn a lot from the challenges you’ve already experienced. So it’s important to meet with all departments as soon as possible to record these lessons before they’re lost. 

  • Handle a debriefing with 100% of staff from management to back of house.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses by honestly answering “What did we do well?” and “What do we need to work on?”
  • If possible, recruit a third party not associated with the restaurant to lead the meeting and record everyone’s honest feedback in a judgement-free environment.
  • From the feedback, create actionable steps for procedural, functional and policy changes that can strengthen your restaurant’s future response.

PREPARE FOR POSITIVE CASES OF COVID-19

Does your restaurant have a plan of action if someone on your team tests positive for COVID-19? While there is no best answer, there is a best approach to minimize the spread and impact: act quickly, isolate and clean. Creating a plan around the points below can help mitigate closing the restaurant for an extended period of time. But ultimately, your decision to shut down will depend on your restaurant’s size and the number of employees exposed.

  • According to the CDC, any employees who work within six feet of an infected worker for 15 consecutive minutes should stay home for two weeks following their last exposure.
  • Reassess ways to reduce future interaction between employees, and reorganize the food production process so it’s easier to identify any additional workers who may also need to be removed.
  • After exposed employees have been identified and excluded, perform a deep cleaning of the restaurant with an EPA-registered disinfectant including guest-facing areas, areas where infected employees work, counters, service stations, high touch points and food contact surfaces.
  • Ensure all employees are using masks and social distancing while in the restaurant to avoid any more positive cases
  • With isolated employees out of the restaurant and a deep cleaning complete, it is safe to reopen.

CONTINUE TO DO WHAT WORKS

Have you seen more success with curbside and to-go orders even with an open dining room? Or have you welcomed more guests back by creating outdoor seating? Restaurants don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every challenge of the pandemic, they just have to focus on what’s already worked—and be agile enough to adapt when problems arise. To focus on what’s working:

  • Regularly talk with guests and staff to monitor areas of success.
  • Offer incentives for customer feedback to get insights into your guests’ preferences.
  • Shift operations to meet your guests’ demands, such as offering the most popular menu items or becoming a to-go only restaurant.
  • Think outside of standard orders by partnering or catering to large groups like a local hospital.

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