A Practical Guide to Reopening Your Restaurant After COVID-19

Even before the pandemic hit, the health and safety of customers have always been crucial in the restaurant industry. As businesses are reopening, a major emphasis has been placed on health and safety, especially that the government is requiring every establishment to ensure physical distancing, cleaning and sanitation, and the health and personal hygiene of the staff and customers.

That said, here’s what you can do when you decide to reopen your restaurant and hopefully recover from the impact brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Prep up your reopening plans

Make sure your goals are actionable and attainable for the time being

Restaurants are reopening this season, and you feel like going for it, too. But just because everyone else in your community is busy with their business doesn’t mean it’ll be easy as turning out that WE’RE OPEN signage and flinging your doors open for your customers.

The first viable step is to sit down and ask yourself, why am I reopening? What are my goals this time, considering the ongoing pandemic? As such, consider the following:

  • Expect reduced business

If you have been operating for a few years, you already know how sales affect your future forecasting, as well as the importance of managing your inventory and staff to limit overspending. When you reopen, do not take your old numbers for granted. Assume that the first few months will be a slow season, and then gradually build your way from there.

  • Have a menu overhaul

This is your opportunity to rethink your menu and update it based on what you think will ring a bell and sell to your customers. Of course, bestsellers must stay, as they’re why your patrons keep coming back. Before you reopen, analyze the cost of any inventory for your old dishes. Make sure you have strong per plate profits before reopening, since prices may have changed since the last time you operated.

  • Source local products
    61% of Canadians say purchasing local food is important, so look into buying local produce for your inventory. Not only does it guarantee fresher ingredients and a better menu with seasonal items, it also improves your brand image and allows you to contribute to a stronger local economy.

2. Reconnect with your staff

Invest in sanitation and new normal customer service trainings for your staff

If your restaurant is one of the many establishments that temporarily closed at the height of the pandemic, you also most likely closed off your communication with your staff. When you reopen, think of them first so you can discuss whether they’d like to get back working with you or not.

If they are onboard, make sure to schedule your meetings properly and discuss the reopening with them so you have their valuable insight. This is to manage everyone’s expectations.

Through your meetings, make sure to inform them of the new policies and procedures that will be implemented to suit the current needs of society, such as your updated restaurant cleaning checklist. Send them digital copies so they can follow through.

Once everyone is settled, you may want to schedule a face-to-face meeting and training at least a week before you intend to start reopening so everything will go smoothly.

One of the important training and policies that you need to carry out with your staff is how they should prepare and deal with sickly customers without making them feel discriminated against. These include:

  • Providing each personnel with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as disposable gloves, mouth protectors, and facial masks to avoid food contamination when serving
  • Offer disinfectants right before they enter the restaurant like sanitisers
  • Regular disinfection of dining utensils that every customer has come in contact with

3. Consider hiring new staff

Chances are, some employees will no longer return by the time you reopen your restaurant. Some of them may prefer to continue staying at home, while some have already found new jobs. Whatever their reasons may be, you need to understand their situation and simply move on to look for new employees who can help you out as you reopen.

Before posting vacant job positions:

  • Analyse first the number of staff you need as you bounce back.
  • Do not open too many positions only to retrench them halfway just because you don’t have enough budget to pay them for their services.
  • Don’t rush and hire too soon and take time to look for people to interview, hire, and train.

You may also want to consider contacting your former employees and inform them of your reopening. Who knows? They may come back, and it will be good for your business since you will no longer have to provide the usual training for new hires.

4. Make your guests feel safe

Provide a safe and comfortable atmosphere for your customers

The pandemic has heightened the people’s need for clean and safe spaces. So, it goes without saying that if you want people to dine-in or order something from your restaurant, you have to take initiatives that will make them feel safe.

These initiatives must highlight the importance of keeping the restaurant clean and safe for your customers that sends the message that cleanliness and caution is now part of your brand. Such initiatives may include:

  • Fixed monthly restaurant-wide disinfection schedule
  • Adjustment of floor plan in a way that each dining table has healthy distances from each other
  • Strategic placement of rubbing alcohol dispensers and other disinfectants across the establishment
  • Regular clean-up of frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, counters, tables, chairs, and so on
  • Signages that remind customers that their proactive cooperation with the restaurant’s sanitation efforts is also needed

5. Tweak your reservation and cancellation policies

Even if the economy is already opening up, it is still possible that you will have lower rates of walk-ins compared to the time before the pandemic. So, you may want to consider tweaking your old reservation policies in a way that will make them more flexible for more reservations. Here’s what you can do:

  • Consider employing third-party booking channels that provide more options for your prospective customers to book reservations other than directly calling your restaurant.
  • Look into the cancellation policies that suit your new reservation policies. However, it is still best to encourage people to dine in your place.
  • If you want to avoid no-shows without having to exercise your usual no-show fees, you may want to consider calling up guests, assure them that the establishments have implemented safety and sanitation protocols, and offer the restaurant’s current promotions so they will push through with their reserved tables.

6. Upgrade your Point-of-Sale (POS) systems

Your POS should be able to meet your restaurant's back-end needsYour point-of-sale (POS) systems have an impact on customer satisfaction. An excellent POS system allows your restaurant to operate smoothly as you reopen, ensuring that you successfully recover from your financial losses. It can also cover your online ordering system, drive-thru ordering systems, and so on.

An upgraded POS system allows you to pave the way for contactless ordering. For instance, you use tablets where customers can log their orders on these devices rather than having an actual staff take orders directly. POS systems also enable you to keep track and tabs on your restaurant’s current inventory.

7. Consider delivery options and offer more promotions

Even your delivery bags are an opportunity to make your customers happyIf you don’t usually offer food delivery, now is the best time to do so as many customers prefer to order from their respective homes. You may also want people to order your dishes via third party delivery services to gain more reach.

And of course, don’t forget about your promotions. Don’t hesitate to ramp up your promotions just to encourage more guests. For instance, you may want to offer work-from-home meal promos for the many employees who have since worked from home at the start of the pandemic.

Another promotion you may want to offer is to transform your establishment to give way to a co-working space and offer free WiFi. Many people are now working remotely and some of them prefer to work outside of their homes. Most of them are also looking for affordable places to work and dine and you might want to take advantage of that.

7. Get creative with marketing

Where are your primary and secondary markets located on the Internet?It only makes sense that you invest in your marketing efforts so you can spread the word about how you’ve made your restaurant a safe and sanitary space for dining. You can mainly make the most out of your marketing strategies with the use of social media and email marketing.

With social media marketing on the rise, take advantage of it by utilising the various social media platforms available at your disposal, such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. See to it that your social media campaigns are customised to target your loyal customers.

On the other hand, email marketing allows you to update your customers regarding any details about your restaurant reopening. You can also inform them of the actions you’ve taken and your current promotional offers.

And, of course, ensure that you personalise your marketing efforts. Your engagement with your current and potential guests will always be critical while we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Personalising your marketing strategies, such as sending personal letters, emails, and texts can leverage your business in these trying times.

8. Have a contingency plan for another closure

The COVID-19 crisis has taught us that the only certainty is uncertainty. Your restaurant may be in demand today, but you have to accept the fact that this may not be the case in the coming months. So you need to keep in mind that there may be another closure or lockdowns if things don’t go as planned.

It’s always safe to have a contingency plan so you can cushion the blow when your restaurant gets another hit from the economic crisis brought by the pandemic. Your contingency plan will vary depending on your restaurant’s needs and the current situation of your restaurant’s location.

Whether your local government imposes a total shutdown or not, it is best if you are prepared beforehand by securing and allocating a budget for tighter times. You can prepare for another closure by incorporating these steps into your contingency plan:

  • Protect what you already have

Try to imagine that you have already reopened and have already stocked up on many foods or kitchen supplies. But then suddenly, a situation arises that will require you to close up shop again.

Now, you need to protect your inventory so you can still use them once the coast is clear and that you can reopen your business again. For your beverage supplies, secure a system cooler. For your other non-perishable goods, ensure you have the proper storage so they last longer.

  • Turn your inventory to cash

If you think you have overstocked your inventory of supplies that are either perishable or that you see no use for it during the shutdown, then, by all means, sell these. It will help your business survive and increase your chances to reopen again.

Do not worry and think that you won’t secure such stock because you always can. It would be best if you focused on how you can help your restaurant make it through the leaner times.

Gear up for the new normal with POSRG CanadaWith the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it pays for restaurants to evolve in order to survive and remain relevant. You can take a step to upgrading your business by ensuring your POS systems accommodate your needs — from front to back end.

Point of Sale Remarketing Group (POSRG) Canada provides POS solutions and protective gear that can surely keep you relevant and stay afloat amidst the pandemic. For enquiries, you may reach us on (905) 332-8809, so our team of experts can tend to your POS needs right away.