Following Social Distance Guidelines in a Restaurant Dining Room
COVID-19 continues to affect our daily lives, but how is it going to affect the way establishments serve dine-in customers when everyone is recommended to social distance? If you are preparing to reopen your restaurant but still aren’t sure how to configure the seating for your customers or how to train your wait staff, we have some tips to help.
Social Distancing and Seating
The federal and state governments have been advising that all people in the United States stay a minimum of 6 feet away from each other. Whether you are arranging seating indoors or outdoors, you will want to take this into consideration when setting up seating. Here’s five things you can do to space the tables out for your customers.
- Take out at least half of the tables and chairs in your current setup to spread customers out
- Only allow so many customers inside at once
- Get innovative by using small greenhouses or table bubbles to provide outdoor customers with their own space
- Institute reservation-only seating to help diminish the amount of waiting customers standing together
- Seat guests at larger tables and closer to a wall or away from the center of the dining room to give everyone more space
Social Distancing for Your Wait Staff
With a limited number of customers in your restaurant, your wait staff can be extra careful while attending to each table. Waiters and waitresses can now comfortably keep a distance while taking orders and dropping off food and drinks. Equip your staff with face shields, gloves, and masks to protect them from guests who are possibly infected with coronavirus.
Serving and Social Distancing
By adding a few new guidelines and informing customers that your serving style has changed a little, your employees can take extra precaution when serving guests.
- Allow runners and waitresses to drop food and drinks off at the ends of tables to decrease contact with customers
- Use wooden or plastic boards that are extra long to bring checks to customers
- Implement no contact food preparation methods to minimize the transfer of any germs from staff to customers
- Encourage customers to wear masks when they are not eating and to abide by your state’s mandates
Following Proper Sanitation Protocol
Constantly cleaning and sanitizing your restaurant space will help decrease the possibility of spreading germs. Follow these tips to take extra precaution and limit the spread of germs in your establishment.
- Designate one or two employees to wipe down handles, faucets, doors, etc. in bathrooms after a customer visits
- Consider closing off your bathrooms to customers in order to cut down on potential infections
- If you have a multi-stall bathroom, explore the idea of transforming it into a space for a single user to limit the number of people in that space at once
- Have one or two employees stand guard and wipe down commonly touched surfaces like entryway door handles, menus, booth seats, and condiments with disinfectant
- Install or place air purifiers around your establishment to help clean the air in circulation
Now that many parts of the country and the world are slowly reopening, it’s time to take precaution and prepare your restaurant for social distancing and necessary sanitation. Using these methods will help when it comes to your business following mandated protocols.
Restaurant Readiness: Preparing for Emergencies
If your restaurant has been affected by the recent measures taken to stop the spread of coronavirus, we have some tips to keep your business going despite dine-in closures. It’s important to adapt quickly to the changing needs of your customers and staff so you can maintain sales and provide a valuable service to your community. Follow these steps to preserve the continuity of your business: 1. Open For Business The current restrictions placed on restaurants and bars due to coronavirus will have many of your customers wondering whether you are still open for business. Make it obvious that you are open by keeping your neon signs lit, placing a sandwich board sign out front, or attaching colorful balloons to your storefront. If you have the capabilities, consider sending out an email blast to highlight your takeout and delivery services. Utilize free social media marketing through Instragram and Facebook to inform your customers that you are open. 2. Promote Gift Cards Purchasing a gift card is a great way for your loyal customers to support your business even if they can't leave their homes. A gift card acts as a temporary loan by providing immediate financial support. Guests can use the gift certificate at a later date or gift it to someone they know in financial need. 3. Put Delivery, Takeout, and Curbside Services Into Action Preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19 have many Americans sheltering in place. If your customers can’t come to you, it’s time to pivot your business to bring your services to them. Put the focus on your takeout business and set up a delivery service for your restaurant. Make it as easy as possible for customers to pick up orders by providing curbside pickup. Pare down your menu to include only those items that travel well, and stock up on takeout supplies. 4. Review Your Handbook This is the perfect time to review your restaurant employee handbook and go over policies with your staff concerning paid leave and sick time. If you don’t have an employee handbook, consider creating one now. Your handbook should contain a section outlining your contingency plan and the steps you’ll take to prepare your business for an unplanned event. Having a contingency plan in place will help you to achieve continuity of your business. Consider adding these steps as part of your crisis plan: Nominate a crisis team Assess business risks Document procedures Test your plan 5. Brush Up On Labor Laws Make sure you’re familiar with the restaurant labor laws that protect employees. When a crisis like coronavirus affects the attendance of your workforce, you might need to adjust work schedules to meet the needs of your business. Your serving staff relies on tips for their main source of income, so you may need to adjust their hourly wages if your dine-in services have been restricted. 6. Monitor Your Supply Chain Just as your business is seeing the effects of COVID-19, your supply chain may be suffering as well. Monitor your inventory closely, make sure your distributors are stocking the items you need, and be on the lookout for shipping delays. Shortages and delays may require you to research other sources for your most needed items. 7. Deep Clean Your Business Right now, there is no better time to deep clean your bar or restaurant. If your sales are suffering because of coronavirus restrictions, you can keep your staff busy with a cleaning checklist and ensure your business is safe and sanitary. Educate your employees about the differences between cleaning and sanitizing and pay extra attention to frequently touched surfaces like door handles, table tops, and condiments. Talk to your staff about the importance of hand washing and make sure your hand washing sinks are stocked with plenty of soap and paper towels. Show your customers that safety and cleanliness are important to you by keeping hand sanitizer in plain site at your entrance and checkout stations. Protect your staff and guests by utilizing sneeze guards and cashier shields to prevent the spread of airborne germs. 8. Shut Down Unnecessary Equipment and Lighting You don’t need to keep all your cooking equipment running when you have a simplified menu. Consider limiting your usage to equipment with multiple functions, like combi ovens. If your restaurant is open for takeout and delivery services only, turn off the lights in areas of your business that aren’t being used. 9. Cross-Train Employees When you have a smaller workforce and attendance is unpredictable, you can cope by cross-training your employees to perform multiple tasks. Cooks and dishwashers can be trained to take phone orders while servers can be trained to operate a deep fryer. With a pared-down menu and only the simplest cooking equipment in use, your entire staff can pitch in to prepare meals. 10. Make a Plan for Reducing Food Waste If the coronavirus crisis has caused your sales to drop off, you may be stuck with more food than you need. Establish a food waste plan that helps you to re-purpose ingredients and maximize your current stock. Try to use up your perishable items as quickly as possible and adjust your inventory requirements to line up with your new simplified takeout menu. In order to weather the storm of an unplanned crisis, you must take action to adapt your business as quickly as possible. Consider implementing the steps we've outlined to preserve your sales and maintain continuity.
How To Host A Restaurant Soft Opening
You’ve successfully purchased a location and transformed it into a brand new restaurant. The space is furnished, the kitchen is stocked, and the menu is written. What’s next? How do you get your restaurant in business? If you plan to open a new restaurant, consider hosting a series of soft openings, or soft launches, to give your staff and kitchen equipment a test run before officially opening your doors to the public. If the coronavirus has forced you to temporarily shut your doors, you can ease back into the business by hosting a soft opening when you're ready to reopen your restaurant. We explored some options and tips for a soft opening that can lead to a successful grand opening. Click below to learn more about each aspect of hosting a restaurant soft opening: Soft Opening Advantages and Disadvantages Soft Opening Invitations Soft Opening Menus How to Create a Neighborhood Presence How to Collect Feedback What Is a Soft Opening? A soft opening or soft launch is the opening of a business for a limited number of people at first to test its services and make improvements. While a grand opening occurs on the actual day your restaurant opens its doors to the public, a soft opening is a beta test that happens well before your restaurant officially opens. There are several advantages and some disadvantages to hosting a soft opening. Advantages of a Soft Opening A soft opening is not a requirement, but there are clear advantages of hosting one before fully opening your doors. Here are some of the major advantages: Get feedback: Collect comments directly from customers on the food, drinks, service, and overall atmosphere. Iron out logistics of your location: Focus on evaluating the seating capacity, the flow of the space, the point-of-sale system, and the kitchen equipment. Prepare the staff: Allow staff to practice menu knowledge and learn how to be a good server, creating consistency among staff members. Build anticipation: Get the word out about your new location by encouraging guests to tell their friends about their experience. Make adjustments: Implement the feedback and tweak things that could use improvement before opening. Disadvantages of a Soft Opening It is important to note that there are some disadvantages to hosting a soft opening: Creates urgency to open: A soft opening should be hosted with a grand opening date in mind. That date should not be too long after the soft launch or else the hype will die down, and your customers may forget or lose interest. Exposes ideas to competitors: A soft launch exposes your ideas to the world which may end up in the hands of a competitor. Delay your grand opening too long, and they may have a chance to implement those ideas before you open. Potential low-quality feedback: Hosting a friends and family restaurant soft opening may not provide you with the best feedback. Those closest to you may want to spare your feelings when it comes to criticisms, so encourage them to be open and honest with constructive feedback, or invite additional guests outside of your inner circle. Soft Opening Invitation The soft opening invitations you send out are an important part of enticing people to test out your restaurant. Depending on how many people you are inviting and your style, you can either email the invite for a more casual feel or send a physical invitation in the mail for something more upscale. Don’t forget to choose a memorable design to grab your guests’ attention. Regardless of how the invitation is sent, the expectations for the event should be listed. Here is a list of what to include on a soft launch invitation: Date Time Address Pricing: Free, Flat Rate, or Menu Pricing RSVP Method and Date Dress Code Timing and Capacity It may be difficult to gauge how many people you can handle for your soft opening. Some locations have all of their guests served during the same time slot. However, staggering the guests provides a realistic flow of service in your location. A common number of guests to invite in a night is usually 100 people, broken up into different time slots. For example, if your event begins at 6 p.m., you would invite 25 people to arrive at 6 p.m., 25 more to arrive at 6:30 p.m., and so on. With this concept, your staff also gets practice serving different stages of a meal at once. One aspect to decide upon is if you will be allowing walk-ins and how many extra people you can fit in your location at a given time. By inviting people beforehand while still allotting space for more, you can gauge how your restaurant handles both your reservation system and walk-in crowds. Building a Soft Opening Guest List You may be tempted to open your doors to the public right away for your soft launch. However, who you invite can have a strong impact on your success moving forward. Invite Familiar Faces Friends and family are much more forgiving in the event of rough patches during your soft opening. A crowd of familiar faces will give you constructive criticism, offering insight while being aware that this is, in fact, a test run. Just remind them to be honest, since friends and family are also more likely to try and spare your feelings. By inviting people you know, it's easier to follow up with them for critiques. This allows you to assess your strengths and weaknesses to make those final tweaks before opening to the public. Familiar faces are also more likely to provide you with free advertising and help build anticipation before you officially open. Contact Local Business Owners To introduce themselves to local business owners, many restaurant owners will host a soft opening event just for the surrounding businesses in their area. A soft opening is usually a restaurant’s first introduction to the local community, making it a great time to create a strong first impression with other local business owners. By hosting a meal or happy hour just for local businesses, you’re expressing an interest to contribute to the established community you have joined. In doing so, you might earn some bookings for upcoming events and meal slots. Forming professional relationships with other community businesses is vital to your success, so be sure to make a strong first impression. Reach Out to Community Leaders and Influencers Prominent local leaders and community influencers are great guests to invite to a restaurant soft opening. These individuals have lots of pull within a local community, meaning that they can generate positive word-of-mouth advertising. Community leaders and influencers often have followings of people that other community members don’t have. Positive reviews from these important individuals can raise your restaurant’s reputation and launch your business with a running head start. Just be prepared to pull out all the stops to impress these people, as their words have a lot of weight behind them and negative reviews from them can do more harm than good. How to Make a Soft Opening Menu Once you’ve decided that a soft opening is a good option for your establishment, the next step is to put together a menu for the occasion. There are a few factors to decide upon before you can host your soft opening. Each type of soft opening menu has pros and cons, so it's up to you to decide which type of soft opening menu best fits your establishment. 1. Full Menu Soft Opening For those restaurants that are close to their grand opening date, offering a full menu soft opening may be the perfect beta test before your actual launch. Offering your restaurant’s complete menu during a soft opening provides a comprehensive overview of the establishment, allowing you to get feedback on all of your dishes. A full menu soft opening will provide you with the most relevant and precise feedback, as the soft opening essentially simulates how your grand opening will go. Although serving your entire menu at a soft opening provides great feedback, there are some drawbacks to hosting such an intricate event. You need to be fully prepared to host a full menu soft opening, meaning that every aspect of your restaurant needs to be ready to launch. A soft opening with an all-encompassing menu also makes it difficult to pinpoint problem areas and mistakes, as you’re testing so many aspects at once. Full menu soft openings provide great feedback, but hosting one likely won’t be the smoothest process unless you’re completely ready for the challenge. 2. Spotlight Signature Dishes from the Menu To ensure that your restaurant stands out from Day 1, serve signature dishes during your soft opening that give guests something to talk about. If you have dishes that are specifically made to match your theme, your soft launch is the perfect time to showcase them. This is also a great time to release a beta menu. This means you only display a few dishes but let your customers know that more additions to the menu are coming, giving them a reason to return after your grand opening to try more food options. By test running your signature dishes, you have a chance to provide your customers with a memorable meal but also make minor adjustments before your doors are open. You can also host multiple soft opening events featuring different parts of the menu each time, which we will explore further. 3. Target a Time Span There is no exact formula on the timeline a soft opening should take, however, the general time frame ranges from 3 days up to two weeks. Your time span will help you determine how many events to have within that time and what to serve on which days. Two soft opening strategies are outlined below that may work for your establishment. Three-Day Strategy: This style is more of an intimate sneak peek and is usually done through personal invitation. Day 1: A cocktail hour featuring appetizers and beverages for friends, family, and local business owners Day 2: A breakfast and lunch meal for friends and family Day 3: A dinner meal for friends and family One to Two-Week Strategy: Think of this as a multi-course meal served over the span of several days. This requires a bit more advertising. Two nights of full menu service for just friends and family One night of full menu service for local business owners One day to launch a breakfast menu that is open to the public One day to feature Sunday brunch that is open to the public One day to serve a lunch menu that is open to the public One day to launch a dinner menu that is open to the public One night of Happy Hour that is open to the public 4. Pick a Pricing Strategy Restaurant menu pricing for a soft opening varies from case to case. Some restaurants offer completely free food, a discounted menu, or a meal selection limited to just a few full-priced options. If you plan on charging full price, be sure to include freebies as a ‘thank you’ for guests' input. This is a good way to have customers try a variety of menu items that they may not have selected to purchase with their meal. These selections can include an appetizer or dessert sampler platter, a drink flight, or your signature cocktail free of charge. If you do choose to provide a completely complimentary event, just be conscious of your budget so it doesn’t end up hurting you rather than helping. Back to Top Create a Neighborhood Presence with a Restaurant Soft Opening Integrating your business into the local neighborhood is an important part of establishing a loyal customer base. Creating a neighborhood presence before your grand opening date allows you to get a head start on forming connections with community members who may one day become your regular customers. Opening Events Turning your restaurant’s soft opening into a community event goes a long way in establishing roots in your local community. If possible, try incorporating entertainment like live music, photo booths, or games, turning your soft opening into a celebration. Guests will be more likely to come when there are other amenities present. Also, turning your soft opening into a community event may boost attendees’ enjoyment of the event and help establish important connections with local patrons. Showcase Your Business Before Opening By announcing your restaurant's presence before officially opening your doors to the public, you'll build anticipation leading up to your grand reveal. What better way to do so than with a live showcase of your menu during your soft opening? Consider operating your own grab-and-go stand that customers can swing by to extend your restaurant services prior to opening. If that option isn't available, seek out other local opportunities to grant a sneak peek at your food. Are there any local food shows or community events you could feature a stand at or cater to get your name known? These restaurant marketing tactics speak volumes more than any flyer or social media posting. Collect Feedback From Your Soft Opening Once you have finished preparing for your soft opening by selecting a menu, inviting your guests, and reaching out to your community, there is one critical step left: collect feedback. The feedback gathered from your guests during your soft launch is extremely valuable in order to make improvements before you open to the public. It is for that reason that your feedback should be gathered in writing. If just spoken to a server during the event, the details of the feedback may be forgotten. Instead, you can hand out a feedback form with the check at the end of the meal and even offer coupons for completed forms. Feedback from your soft opening can help make sure your grand opening is a success. Back to Top A soft opening may feel like an additional step delaying you from opening your doors, but it can be highly valuable to your restaurant’s success. It provides the opportunity to find areas of improvement and get in some much-needed practice before officially opening your establishment. When planning for your soft launch, be sure to select your menu and guest list wisely to make the most of the experience.
Five Tips to Improve Your Delivery Service
Your restaurant and business might already have a booming delivery service. But just like any functioning system in a food business, there is always room for improvement. If you are looking to streamline your process for customer delivery orders, here are five tips to improve your delivery services. 1. Create a Delivery Menu It’s nice to give your customers options when they choose to order delivery over dining in. Unfortunately, there is a high chance that not all of your dine-in menu options are suitable for being transported in takeout and delivery containers. To avoid unwanted spills, carefully craft a delivery menu based off of food items you think will travel well. Once your menu is created, add it to your restaurant’s website or mobile ordering system. 2. Use Reliable GPS Apps If your delivery drivers are not familiar with the area that your food business is in or are new to delivery altogether, they are going to need reliable GPS apps to get food to your customer’s location in a timely manner. Do your research to find the best GPS apps possible. There are many free GPS apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps. Sometimes these apps are not reliable depending on service connection. The apps Waze and HERE WeGo are free and also have offline service and a reliable connection. Both apps also offer alternative routes when their systems see that there is traffic coming up. 3. Implement No Contact Delivery Practices Take extra precaution and institute no contact delivery practices in the prep area where your delivery orders are fulfilled. If you want your employees to be more intentional about not touching the food or the containers for customer orders, try implementing a labeling system to remind workers. To give your customers additional reassurance, use tamper evident containers, which will show whether or not their food was reopened after being sealed. 4. Hire a Third Party Delivery Service to Meet Demand The restrictions instituted because of coronavirus has driven an increasing demand in delivery and takeout orders. If your restaurant is struggling to keep up with customer deliveries, consider hiring a third party delivery service like DoorDash, Grubhub, or Uber Eats. A third party delivery service can help in a number of ways, but keep in mind that you want to form a partnership with a delivery service as if it were your own business. Make sure that the company guidelines align with your own, so that you are satisfied with the way they inform their drivers. Try to remember drivers’ names and develop a more personal relationship with the ones you see more often. 5. Cross-Train Employees to Fulfill Delivery Orders If the amount of available restaurant staff you have is dwindling, make a point to cross-train staff to fulfill delivery orders, man your drive-through window, and take phone orders. This will help increase the efficiency or your working staff and decrease some stress during a time where you may not know how many people will show up for their shift. Given the uncertainty of how coronavirus is going to affect each business at a micro-level, it is best to prepare your staff to handle multiple roles. Cross-training staff will also help with restaurant training in the future as you hire new employees and restaurants regain a sense of normalcy. Coronavirus has affected every business in a different way. If your restaurant was able to adapt early and offer takeout and delivery services to your customers, you might be looking for ways to make that service more efficient. We hope these delivery tips can help during this time!