Bars and restaurants across the U.S. have been closed for more than a month due to the coronavirus. While many still offer take-out and delivery options, an estimated 8 million workers are without jobs, with venues seeing more than 50% loss in revenue and an even higher number in lost patronage.
During a time where we must all work together to ensure the safety of our country and its inhabitants, states are more divided than ever, trying to decide when the right time is to “re-open” their businesses while determining what the new ‘normal’ will look like. States have already begun to create a plan for allowing dine-in, while others are waiting to on their governors to lift stay-at-home protocols. According to Eater, some suggest there may be a “rolling lockdown cycle” that could last for 18 months, where city’s will open their businesses just to be forced to close them again on short notice, repeating this process several times.
So far, there are no set rules for re-opening, although economic and safety analysts have begun to speculate what parameters will be set for restaurants, retail stores, and other non-essential businesses. Recently, cities like Hong Kong have begun allowing patrons to dine-in at restaurants, possibly setting an example for other countries re-opening plans. In Hong Kong, some establishments are taking guests temperature before they enter or having them sign waivers (stating they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms or that they haven’t recently traveled internationally), and have capacity requirements, ensuring guests are still social distancing. Often police have been stationed on the street to help enforce these safety measures.
With so much uncertainty surrounding our future, being prepared is key for the success of your business (and could help manage some of your stress). Consider creating a plan for your eventual reopening using these tips:
Schedule a deep clean
Whether your restaurant has had limited operations or has been completely closed, it’s a good idea to schedule a deep clean prior to any dine-in services. You’ll also want to institute a daily cleaning schedule if you don’t have one already.
Check out some simple tips from Nation’s Restaurant News for keeping a clean environment, including sanitizing menus and installing sneeze guards.
Encourage health and safety practices
Practicing good hygiene is standard protocol at restaurants, but you’ll want to emphasize this point more during this time. Consider creating sanitizing areas, make sure your bathroom is always stocked with soap, and limit self-service stations –– like offering bowls of mints or toothpicks.
Additionally, you should continue to encourage employees to prioritize their health and safety by staying home if they feel unwell or are showing symptoms.
Stay up to date on your state’s laws
The best way to be prepared is to be knowledgeable – check out this website that lists the most recent COVID-19 related restrictions by state.
Some states have capacity restrictions in place, like South Carolina where retail stores must “limit occupancy to five customers per 1,000 square feet, or 20% of posted occupancy limits, whichever is lower.” With similar restrictions seen in Hong Kong, it’s safe to assume restaurants will have to comply with these capacity mandates as well. Begin to familiarize yourself with different capacity percentages for your restaurant in case the time comes.
Preparing your team
Once bars and restaurants were forced to shut down, many had to lay off their staff for an undetermined amount of time. With the thought of reopening comes concerns surrounding hiring back employees; how to do so with limited revenue, how to begin the process, and what type of support you’ll need.
Even for small businesses who were eligible and received the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, rehiring staff isn’t as easy as it seems, considering they must do so by the end of June, though no one knows what the state of the stay-at-home orders will be.
Here are a couple factors to consider for rebuilding your team:
- What’s the minimum amount of people needed to operate my business while open to the public? Consider hiring employees in groups rather than all at once, that way you aren’t overloaded with expenses.
- Reach out to a third-party for assistance. Partnering with a staffing company like LGC can help by providing temporary staff, allowing you to supplement your full-time team, which is especially useful if on a rolling lockdown. (LGC can also assist you with covering payroll, which you can read more about here.) Using a staffing partner would be especially helpful if your state ends up mandating social distance monitors or temperature takers, which some businesses have started utilizing.
Create a clear line of communication for your guests and employees on how you’re maintaining a safe atmosphere at your business. You’ll help ease concerns and show you’re committed to health and safety standards. Think about newsletters or group chats for your team, and social media posts or flyers for guests.
In terms of non-essential business, the restaurant and hospitality industries have suffered greatly due to the coronavirus. Although we’re eager for life to get back to “normal” (whatever normal will look like), the only way we can do that is to take measures that ensure the safety of our communities. By following these tips and any state/CDC regulations, you’ll have a plan for reopening your restaurant when the time comes.
LGC provides a variety of solutions for restaurants and other businesses. Contact us today to learn how we can support you.