Are you ready to serve your customers some delicious food and drinks, great atmosphere, and a wonderful time in a safe environment? A bit of sage advice: before you can serve up nachos, you have to consult NACCHO. This is a handy acronym for the National Association of County and City Health Officials, which has a database of all local health departments by state. Not only do COVID-19 restrictions and reopening plans vary from state to state, but these also vary internally from county to city. You will need to know exactly what the restaurant guidelines are in your locality in order to proceed with the best plan.
First, check with your local health department to know what your restrictions are. By now most localities are permitting dine-in seating at a limited capacity, or with certain restrictions like outdoor seating only. Know your freedoms, and be especially mindful of your limits, so that you can move forward with a plan.
Next, with local guidelines in mind, figure out how your restaurant can best serve the community. Will you offer partial dine-in or takeout only? Do you have the staff to accommodate these needs? Will you offer outdoor seating? Unfortunately for some locations, it is timely to consider how wildfires, poor air quality, hurricane season, etc., will threaten the success of outdoor seating. The best plan will incorporate the needs of the local area you serve.
Delivery services such as DoorDash, GrubHub or UberEats can be good options for restaurants looking to tap into the growing need for takeout. These services do help with marketing your restaurant on their platforms as well. However, it is important to note that these service providers will charge business owners an average of 30% of the total sale, on top of a one-time activation fee. Weigh your options and costs to determine if this option is best for your business.
The Three C’s
As you make preparations to reopen your business safely, we understand this is an important time to rebuild consumer confidence and demand. To do this successfully, you have to be strategic at every stage of the reopening and for the foreseeable future. To help with your strategy, remember the THREE C’s:
Maintain a sanitized environment; this includes new measures such as sanitizing pens, credit card machines, and surfaces between each customer transaction. Familiarize yourself and your staff with local guidelines and be consistent. Prioritize staff health, wellness and hygiene, and offer to supply face masks to all staff members. Prepare your business for these new operations by making signs with local guidelines and restrictions to post on your door. Update your restaurant’s website with this same information on the homepage.
Recognize the reality of reopening and take precautions with food and product safety. Educate your staff and maintain proper social distancing guidelines. Get ahead of reordering products and supplies that may be in short supply or take longer to be delivered. Partner with a delivery service like the ones listed above, or hire extra delivery drivers to meet the growing need. Consider adjusting your menu to prioritize popular, cost-effective offerings or takeout-friendly options.
Make a plan with your leadership team. Use all of your resources to ensure that the local community knows you are open, what your efforts are to reduce the spread of COVID, if you are open for limited dine-in services or takeout only, and if your menu has changed or has limited offerings. Beef up your marketing campaigns with welcome coupons, special rates on certain days, or frequent-buyer incentives along the lines of “buy 10 pizzas, get 1 free!” These efforts will help boost sales and reinvigorate customer loyalty that dropped off due to the pandemic.
As different cities and states around the country are loosening COVID-19 restrictions, the restaurant world is opening its doors to welcome back their loyal customers and entice new patrons. Restaurants are ready to take in orders and get back to business, but owners and managers will need to make sure to address customer concerns and remain compliant with local COVID-19 restrictions.
First step: Consult NACCHO.
Second step: Be strategic. Make a plan.
Third step: Remember the three C’s: Cleanliness, Coordination, and Communication
With these tips in mind, your restaurant can be in compliance with local ordinances and get back to serving the community delicious food once more.