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As many states are allowing restaurants and bars to open with social distancing precautions in place, business owners need to be aware of what they can do to keep customers safe while also providing a hospitable experience.

To help guide your reopening plans, we partnered with a food industry expert on compliance, Kyra McAndrews. Kyra is the Founder and CEO of Inspectus, a company that builds tools to help independent restaurants and food entrepreneurs help navigate compliance at every stage of their business. They are driven by a deep belief in simplifying government regulations to support the food industry and provide step-by-step guidance to approach compliance so owners can make the best decisions to support their budget, timeline, and the vision for their food business.

Since COVID-19 is definitely a large and unprecedented stage of business, Inspectus is trying to get independent restaurant owners and food entrepreneurs through this time by offering a COVID-19 Playbook. We’ll cover the topics presented in the playbook in our new webinar hosted by Matthew Hardoon, Director of Sales at MarketMan, where you’ll learn:

  • How to protect your staff at work
  • Cleaning and sanitizing standards and practices
  • How to communicate social distancing guidelines inside and outside your restaurant
  • How to preserve your unique customer experience 

Protect Your Staff

Your staff is one of your most important assets as a restaurant, so how do you protect them? As you’re moving from carry-out only to in-house dining, the next stage of re-opening, you need a clear plan set in place to maintain safety standards for your team.

Communicate with staff about protocols, which includes:

  • Outlining handwashing procedures that meet CDC guidelines
  • Limiting the sharing of objects (such as sharing spoons) between staff members in order to minimize the spread of germs
  • Requiring staff to wear PPE, including face masks and gloves as necessary.

Also, you need to set a protocol for when a staff member is sick. Encourage them to stay home when they feel ill, and establish a policy on when they’ll be allowed to resume work. Right now, industry-standard for an employee returning to work is a 14-day self-quarantine period after a suspected or positive COVID test. But as a business, you should have a protocol in place that makes the most sense for you. 


Set Cleaning And Sanitizing Standards

Cleaning and sanitizing your restaurant – including all surfaces such as tables, door handles, kitchen countertops, food prep stations, and more, need to be sanitized often. Follow the CDC guidelines and double down on your procedures.

Make sure your standards of cleanliness and social distancing are shouted from the rooftops – both staff and customers need to know what your expectations are of them. Communicate what your protocols are by posting them on your website, social media channels, and windows of your restaurant. If a customer needs to wear a face mask to enter, make that clear. It’s unbelievably valuable to relay this information, as it will speak volumes to your customers that you care and want to keep them safe.   

Preserve Your Unique Customer Experience

Preserving your “special sauce”, or the reasons why customers want to come to your restaurant and enjoy a meal, might be on your mind when there is less human interaction in general going on.

Use the tools you have in place to maintain your unique tone and branding throughout the customer experience. Here are a few ways to achieve this:

  • Prepare and train your staff to enforce social distancing guidelines 
  • Give your staff a script to welcome customers and communicate information about guidelines
  • Regularly update your website and social media channels with information on hours, protocol, menu changes, specials, and more.

Things might not feel “normal”, for a while, but do your best to continue to show off what makes you different and why people enjoy eating at your restaurant.

COVID-19 signage

Create High Visibility Through Signage

It’s essential to have clear signage so when customers approach your restaurant, they’re not confused about how to order, or even if it’s acceptable to enter. Post signs on doors and windows and state what the procedures are. Also, putting markings on the floor to show what 6-feet apart actually looks like will help customers properly practice social distancing and help keep everyone safer. You could place these markings in places you’re offering carry-out, in the kitchen, in front of the cashier, and more high traffic areas.

Illustrating to people that you have protocols in place takes the burden off your customers and staff of trying to figure out what 6-feet away actually looks like.

Be Flexible As Supply Chains Change

With the progression of this pandemic, we’ve seen supply chains take a big hit, especially with protein sources. Due to this change, many in the restaurant industry have found that menu items have had to evolve as well. It’s important to find a way to modify your menu items so that it both meets the needs of the customer, while also simplifying things on the backend for you.

This is where restaurant management software can really help. Platforms like MarketMan could be integral to navigating this pandemic because you need to be aware of what is in your inventory and what you need to plan for.

Automating your system with software can allow you to get out of the back of the house, and into the front of the house where you can focus on hospitality, compliance issues, and getting in touch with your customers. And in crazy times like this, we need all the help we can get to achieve this! 

Knowledge Is Power

For more information about setting up guidelines for reopening your restaurant, check out your local health authority’s website. Your local health department is the first place you should go for guidance, as their number one priority right now is to communicate information on COVID-19.

The CDC has also been issuing updated guidelines on a weekly basis, and they have a specific page for bars and restaurants that may be helpful. Lastly, we recommend speaking to your neighbors in peers fighting the good fight in the restaurant industry and seeing how you can complement the safety protocols they’ve set up. At a time like this, it’s all about surviving and supporting our industry on a wider level. Utilizing the brainpower that’s existing in the food industry already, such as other restaurant owners or your local restaurant association, could prove to be great resources.

If you’re interested in learning more about navigating COVID-19 as a restaurant owner, check out the COVID-19 Playbook from Inspectus – it’s free for all MarketMan customers.

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