While the hospitality industry reopens, many businesses bide their time to see how the situation unfolds — learning from the restaurants who have already reopened. To assist with this, we’ve compiled insights and tips from the restaurateurs and founders who have already reopened their spaces. From fine dining spots to neighbourhood cafes, here are the restaurants who have reopened, and what you can learn them:
Reconfigure your seating layout.
A big concern is how venues can rearrange their layout to comply with social distancing. Too close and you compromise hygiene standards, too far apart and there could be a lack of atmosphere— this will particularly affect smaller neighbourhood venues. Above all, capacity and party size rules will differ from state to state, so make sure you’re clued up on what applies to you. For venues with limited square footage, the answer may be to use previously unutilised space or even by expanding. Take plant-based The Butcher’s Daughter, who have introduced curbside dining in several of their locations, or New York’s Suki who will be moving their eatery to a larger space to allow for social distancing.
Stagger your staffing.
Even with a responsible layout in place, these measures could be compromised by a surge of staff arriving for their shifts at once. To solve this, look to the restaurants who are staggering rotas for their returning staff — this allows them to not only ease congestion but also to let their staff travel on public transport at off-peak times. If your new space doesn’t allow for all of your team to return, we recommend applying to the Paycheck Protection Program, which has now been extended to early August. The scheme will allow you to support your staff for the hours you cannot yet offer them, as well as sick pay and other business expenses.
Switch to a booking system.
Planning ahead allows you to really focus on the here and now. Therefore, it’s no wonder that many brands are not allowing walk-ins and are adopting a reservations-only model: from well-known chains to renowned dining institutions. In fact, some states in Germany have even made it compulsory for reopening restaurants, with booking software like OpenTable seeing a significant surge in first-time use. However, if you have space, there’s no reason why you can’t cordon off a dedicated outdoor area for a limited number of walk-ins. If you’ve never expanded al fresco, check out the re-ply initiative— they make outdoor furniture for hospitality businesses, repurposed from the same plywood that was used to shutter their windows under lockdown.
Double down on hygiene.
The hospitality industry has always practised very high standards of cleaning, but now there will be no room for error. There has been a marked move towards disposable cleaning products to fight the spread. For example, instead of using one cloth to sanitise tables, use disposable alcoholic wipes. Single-use products are also a trend to note, with venues like Café Birdie Los Angeles using disposable menus to decrease the risk of contamination. A zero-contact service is also an option: venues like New York’s Pietro Notlita has made it possible by introducing contactless curbside pickup service.
You should also consider that your customers also have a responsibility to fight the spread, too. Communicate with all upcoming bookings with an up to date list of symptoms via email, advising them not to visit if they or anyone in their household are showing signs. Make sure your staff are informed for these too, so they can stay informed and keep themselves safe.
Make the most of your delivery options.
If your restaurant is working at reduced capacity, then it could be an option to make up the difference through a takeaway or click & collect service. You will be able to not only drive some much-needed revenue but also reach your customers who aren’t ready to venture out just yet. Meeting the needs of your customers through alternative services can also build their trust and loyalty with your brand, according to a recent article from Forbes. Many have opted for the tried-and-tested Grubhub or Uber Eats, but if you’re looking for a holistic solution, Toast may be the answer. Software designed for restaurants of all sizes to manage delivery, front of house, POS and even payroll all through one platform. Figure out what makes sense for you.
Put an emphasis on customer service.
With advanced hygiene measures in place, it could make your space to feel sterile, and even unwelcoming for your guests. Remedy this with top-notch customer service informed by official guidelines, consider holding a staff training day before reopening to ensure everyone is on the same page. As well as internal training, the Institute of Hospitality has developed courses specifically to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
If your staff are required to use PPE by your local government, attentiveness, friendliness and product knowledge will be required more than ever to remedy the covering of their faces. The UK’s Royal College of Nursing has recently recommended the ‘‘smize’ – smiling with your eyes – for their nurses whose faces are covered with PPE, this would no doubt work for the hospitality industry too.
If you’re looking to mark lockdown lifting by launch a new restaurant, bar or bistro, you can chat to one of our expert advisors via The Hotline to get help and advice on setting up shop.