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Top Things to Keep in Mind When Planning Your Restaurant Reopening

Resources, COVID Resources - May 13, 2020 Written By: Krista Dinsmore

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A couple of weeks ago we went through the 5 tactics that a restaurant should implement in the early stages of reopening in one of our blogs. As some regions start to get the green light to open, within certain restrictions and guidelines, it’s now time to plan with opening day in mind.

Our previous blog covered a few important areas where you can cut costs and save money. Now we want to share with you useful information to help you adjust to the “new normal” as you will want to help your customers feel as safe and comfortable as possible.

1 - Acknowledging and Supporting Your Staff

Your staff are a huge part of what really makes a customer's experience positive. During this time of reduced work or shut down, it is important that you continue to communicate with staff, providing updates, checking in on their mental health, perhaps even offering them a free take-out meal.

However, now is also the time to start rebuilding an all-star team that can truly help you during the reopening of your establishment. Look at each of your employees and ask yourself, “is this person actually a good fit for my team?”. Your culture and personality is key, so make sure your team is positive and they are proud to be working for you and servicing your customers. They need to be caring and cognisant of the current situation, and compassionate towards your customers who are venturing back to your restaurant.

Be sure that you have the appropriate social distancing measures in place (according to government regulations), as well as provide the proper personal protection equipment (PPE) to keep your staff as safe and healthy as possible.

Along with PPE, it is important to keep in mind the additional cleaning requirements that will need to be implemented into your staff's routine. This may require you to re-think where your staff will be positioned. Will you have someone at the front door monitoring customer social distancing? Will there be additional staff to bus tables and help increase cleaning efforts? It is important to anticipate these changes now - before you open your doors.

2 - Take-out and Delivery will Make a Difference

Some restaurants have been fortunate enough to remain open and offer take-out and delivery while others weren’t as fortunate. If you do not have take-out or delivery currently offered as a service, then now (more than ever), is the time to think about how you could implement these value-added services for your customers.

Guests have become more accustomed to dining through delivery and take-out ,as it offers a safer option. Younger guests have been the earliest adopters of this process as it offers them convenience by ordering through apps such as UberEats and Skip the Dishes. Now, obviously this isn’t necessarily the route restaurant owners want to continue with, as food ordering apps operate by incurring as much as a 10-25% fee from each order.

So how can we convince customers to pick-up rather than order through an app? One idea would be to offer a 5% or 10% discount or free appetizer, if the guest were to pick-up the order themselves, thus saving on the delivery cost.

When offering take-out and delivery options to your customers it is important to keep in mind the menu options; do they travel well? Will it be of the same quality you would serve in your restaurant? Are there better options to offer through take-out? Some restaurants have been modifying their take-out and delivery menus to accommodate their customers, this includes, offering family-style meals that will cater to the entire family, or perhaps provide dishes that need to be cooked or warmed once they arrive at the customer's home (with heating/cooking instructions, of course).

Another route that restaurants might start adapting is ghost kitchens. This is the concept where a business markets themselves as a normal, full-service restaurant but only offers take-out and/or delivery. The advantages of these types of operations are low rent (as the physical location isn’t important) and no front-of-house costs. With this business model, the same small kitchen might market itself as multiple restaurants: selling sandwiches under one name, Italian food under another name, and barbeque under a third – all sharing the same coolers, ovens and cooks.

3 - Reducing Tension for your Guests

Before you reopen your doors to customers, it is important to think about where they are emotionally. Chances are most will be timid and uncomfortable with spending more time out in the public, especially with the new set-up of your establishment and social distancing procedures (limited seating, face masks and gloves, just to mention a few). This is unfamiliar territory for everyone, it could be odd, so think about what you can do to make the experience as normal and comfortable as possible for your customers.

One way of doing this is by communicating that you, and your staff, are taking all the health and safety procedures very seriously by taking all the necessary safety precautions.

4 - Tighten Up Inventory Processes to Prevent Theft and Over-Pouring

With a revenue crunch, it is important to monitor your stock to ensure that bartenders aren’t over-pouring and servers are ringing in all orders. It’s tricky to be able to monitor each person and their activity on their shift - that’s where an inventory system would come in handy. In the new normal, the tolerance for theft and over-pouring will be much lower, so be sure you have a process in place to ensure your staff are keeping the processes as tight as possible.

If you do not have an inventory process in place or would like some assistance in getting set up before opening day, please let us know.

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5 - Reduce Line-ups and Implement Reservations

Designating social distancing areas inside your restaurant will be a challenge as you reopen to the public. Your waiting guests will have to wait outside as you use precious space inside for dining guests. You should explore taking reservations when you first reopen in order to mitigate these scenarios and increase customer satisfaction, rather than have stressed customers having to wait outside. Reservations will also help with the issues of where your customers can wait for their table, thus helping with potential social distancing issues inside your restaurant.

If you do decide that a reservation-only policy will be put in place, make sure it is well communicated. Those that arrive without a reservation can be directed to place take-out orders. Your customers will understand that you are having to put this in place for their safety.

6 - Offer More Offers

As different businesses begin to reopen, the public will eventually venture out from self-isolation and explore once again. However, with social distancing procedures in place, occupancy will be limited, which means you may only be able to serve 50% of your customers during your usual busy times. In order to remain successful during this phase, it is crucial to keep your establishment busy at all times. You can do this by providing more offers to your customers during your slow times.

Take Happy Hour, for example. If you were to offer a tiered happy hour from 2pm to 5pm you will be able to entice customers to dine at your restaurant during off-peak times. You could offer a larger discount for customers between 2pm and 3pm, and then begin to decrease the discount/offer each hour afterwards until the dinner rush kicks in. This can also come into play after dinner and when late-night begins.

Our definition of ‘business as usual’ has drastically changed, and it could remain this way for quite some time. So, it is crucial to adapt and strategically plan ahead, to ensure your restaurant is a safe and positive place to enjoy.

For assistance to get your bar or food inventory in order before you reopen, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We want to help you transition successfully.

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