Restaurants And COVID-19 – How To Adapt And Overcome

Almost everyone will have been affected by COVID-19 at some point over the past few months.

Whether it’s because the children were off school, you were furloughed from your job, or you weren’t able to see friends and family as often as you wanted, it’s likely COVID-19 will have had an impact on your routine – whatever your lifestyle.

Some industries have thrived (online warehouses, local delivery services, and hand gel suppliers to name a few), but sadly there have been many sectors that have felt the full force of the virus – the restaurant and pub trade chief among them.

For a business that relies on physical bodies to survive, the ever-changing guidelines have been challenging to say the least! No matter if you consider yourself to be a large establishment or a small local café, you will have faced similar obstacles.

So, how can you make the best of things in these unprecedented times? We’ve put together a few suggestions.

1. Change Your Layout

Try to find the floor plan which allows you to seat the maximum number of people possible, while ensuring that all customer parties remain at least 6 feet apart.

Remove any self-service stations such as salad bars or drinks machines. Not only will this give you valuable extra floor space, but it will prevent groups of people gathering around them.

Consider the installation of partitions or screen guards, especially in areas where it is difficult to keep patrons 6 feet apart. Get creative! Try finding alternative partitions or room dividers which compliment your establishment.

2. Ensure Staff Wellbeing

It is important to guarantee that your employees are fully aware and prepared for the challenges which lie ahead. Your business won’t be the same for a while, but if your staff are confident and comfortable with the adjustments you’ve had to make, then chances are your customers will be too.

Have a walkthrough of the new restaurant layouts and procedures with your employees, and rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of people in the restaurant/bar areas.

Also, you could ensure you have at least one designated staff member per shift who is responsible for all COVID-19 concerns; there will undoubtedly be many questions in your employees’ minds, and having one specific spokesperson to voice them will allow service to continue uninterrupted while the concerns are being addressed.

3. Reduce Contact And Contamination

Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting your business will need to become a daily routine, and there are additional measures you can take during service times too.

For example, find anything in your business which can be adapted from shared items into individual ones. For example, instead of handing out reusable menus and condiment bottles, try swapping them for single use packets and digital menus.

You could also use contactless payments to avoid unnecessary contact with items that are passed from one person to another, and ensure your staff are properly trained to clean your premises as they go.

4. Adapt!

Look around at your competitors and see how they have adapted to the situation – have they done anything which could work for you and your business? And try speaking to your employees, they may have thought of new ideas that you may not have even considered.

For now, here are some ideas we’ve come up with:

  • Create a booking system; this will allow you to control the number of people in your establishment, and give you and your staff a chance to properly clean each table and seating area before the next guests arrive.

  • Where possible, ask customers to wait in their cars, or create a socially distanced waiting area outside where diners can stay until it’s their turn to be seated.

  • Asking customers to pre-order their food will not only eliminate the need for menus, but will reduce the amount of time they spend in your restaurant.

  • Offer a takeaway option. Not only will this increase the amount of patrons you can serve, it could also create an opportunity to hire some temporary staff. Many people have been affected by job loss, and would be grateful for any opportunity to earn some extra cash on the side.

  • Make sure to update your website with details of all the changes you’ve made to your establishment, so customers can stay up to date.

5. Improvise

You may find that your usual supplier is unable to deliver as normal, if at all.

If this is the case, don’t fear! When panic buying hit during lockdown, plenty of small scale local suppliers were thrust into the limelight. Local farms began delivering eggs and vegetables, while local bakers sold bags of flour and began delivering their baked products to homes and businesses, so if you can’t find everything in your normal place, don’t be afraid to shop around.

If you still can’t find what you need from alternative suppliers, you could even reduce the size of your menu – tailoring it to what you can get supplied, instead of chasing after those elusive ingredients.

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