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According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson we are past the peak of COVID-19 and getting ready for a slow release of lockdown measures. And whilst there’s still a long way to go before we return to life as we knew it, or whatever the new normal life is going to be, it’s an encouraging sign for the hospitality industry that’s been almost completely shutdown since March. We are going to take you through some of the key things you need to be thinking about concerning how and when to reopen your restaurant post-COVID-19. 

Keep Staff Engaged

The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit from the COVID-19 lockdown with millions of workers currently furloughed and there’s no indication, as of yet, when things are going to start returning to normal again. For employers, it’s incredibly important during this time to be there for staff, making them feel supported and engaged with the business. Honest Burger are one of the chains that’s been doing this. They’ve made use of technology to keep furloughed staff connected with fun and informative videos helping them understand what their roles might look like once we are past the pandemic. Whilst many establishments decided to keep some sites open by operating with delivery options, Honest Burger closed all sites and furloughed 98% of staff, which made communication even more important for the chain.

They’ve been keeping in touch using Facebook’s Workplace platform, launching a programme of events called Home Front which has had 90% engagement from staff. The events include HIIT workouts hosted by their co-founder Tom Barton, sessions on healthy eating during lockdown and the workforce has also been encouraged to contribute with their own content too. Hush, the restaurant, have also been using technology to keep staff connected. “We’ve been communicating with staff in a number of ways,” says CEO Ed Standring. “Zoom calls with the central team have been frequent, whilst we’ve hosted webinars once a week. It’s also been important to do personal calls, helping to make staff feel connected to the business.”

If most of your staff are furloughed right now, or if you still have reduced teams operating sites with delivery options, it’s imperative to keep in touch with them even more than usual. You want staff to feel ready to go and get back to work when the time is right. Showing them you care, and keeping them engaged with the business is the best way to do that during these times of social distancing.

Become a takeaway as a soft launch 

Just Eat reported a 50% rise in first-quarter sales on increased demand for food deliveries with shares in the company also rising 8.5%. Those numbers show a lot of takeaways are still thriving during the pandemic and many restaurants have followed suit as an alternative revenue stream. It enables restaurants to continue making money without having to make contact with the public and should be seen as a longer term solution as social distancing will still be important for a long time. Making your businesses available for takeout gives you a chance to soft launch for when you’re back properly and that’s what many businesses have started to do. Big names like Burger King, KFC and Pret A Manger have all reopened selected restaurants to deliver food only, whilst smaller chains such as Haché doing the same with 6 of their 13 units remaining open for delivery.

One way to transition into offering takeout may be thinking about the types of meals you are providing for customers and especially families. Switching over to meals that offer numerous portions like pies and casseroles provides larger meals that can last multiple nights of the week while limiting the frequency of delivery runs – good for both safety and costs.

If restaurants do decide to go down this route, it could be an approach that’s here to stay. Not only does it give you another way to generate revenue, it’s possible these ordering habits are likely to remain once it’s all over.

What to do about your site and infrastructure 

If you’re wondering about all the things you need to do to ensure the maintenance and infrastructure of your site, Ed Strandring of Haché and Hush Mayfair has some great insight into what they have been doing. 

“We’ve been carrying out inspections once a week at our larger sites whilst we’ve maintained our pest control contracts. Maintenance is obviously hard work during these times at a lot of our sites, apart from fridges and freezers which have remained on throughout,” Following lockdown it’s going to be really important to be diligent in making sure everything is in working order and software like OpsBase is ideal if you want to really drill down on all tasks to ensure nothing is missed. Creating a checklist of maintenance issues that need to be done before opening, and who needs to do it, will be critical in helping businesses work together quickly and efficiently to ensure a smooth transition to reopening. With OpsBase, you can create checklists, assign them to the correct teams, and oversee everything so you know exactly what’s going on, even across multiple sites. “Checklists will reassure operators.” says Ed. “Ops Directors can have lists for Ops Managers who, in turn, have them for staff members. Layers of audits will become the new approach post-pandemic.”

New processes around social distancing and cleanliness

There will be a number of new processes that will need to take place once everything opens back up again including protocols for social distancing and cleanliness. Even after the lockdown is over we know hospitality establishments are going to be adopting many of the social distancing measures which are currently in supermarkets. There will be customer and staff distancing enabled by floor markings as well as limited customer capacity managed by outside queuing. In regards to queuing, neighbouring businesses will also need to work together to manage queues effectively to maintain social distancing measures.  Of course we expect there to be hand sanitiser available upon entry and on tables, and it may even be that the capacity of tables is halved to create enough distance between customers. And counters are likely to feature plexiglass separating customers from staff. 

Then you’ve got to consider the staff, communications with them and the uniform they’ll be wearing. As we’ve seen above businesses have been using technology to keep staff updated and engaged, and this will need to continue. It’s going to be imperative to educate staff so they are aware of all the correct protocols and information to do their job. 

Uniform checklists will be important to ensure everyone is protected and team health and safety protocols will need to be in place for even if the worst happens and there’s a member of the team showing symptoms. Another aspect of the new normal we might be experiencing is the introduction of contact tracing which alerts users if someone in close proximity has COVID-19. If someone gets the alert whilst they’re at your restaurant, this is something else that will need to be considered. Frequent cleans have always been important but now they even more so whilst audits are going to be the only truly effective way to minimise risk and keep customers and staff safe. It’s all been reported there will be staggered working hours to help ease congestion at peak times and reduce localised outbreaks which may occur in any crowded building. 

Reactivating the supply chain and existing stock

Staying close to your suppliers is crucial if you are going to have a robust supply chain to return to. They of course are likely to be in a similar predicament as you are, and so it is important to understand their capacity to return to normal – don;t assume they can just switch it back on. And for their sake, give them as much forward visibility of what you will need as possible.

Reducing menus could be one of the most important aspects of reopening as restaurants cannot return with supply chain issues. It will be worthwhile making a list of all the things you’ll need for the reduced menu and then build back up slowly when everything is more settled.

How to prepare better for reopening if there is another lockdown

No-one has been through this before, so to a degree, trial and error is the norm. However if we go back into lock-down in the future, this will be emphatically not the case, and efficiency and effectiveness will be critical. Without guarantees of future government support, it could be a case of competitive advantage or survival. So make sure the actions that have worked are recorded, repeatable and deployable at short notice.

Checklists are vital. “We did everything manually before and we kept forgetting things,” says Ed. With OpsBase, everything is accounted for. You could create your task list right now and have it visible to all members of the team to ensure everyone knows their role and what tasks they need to complete for an effective shutdown. And then you could have access to all of your team’s progress, to see what’s been done and by whom, which will ensure peace of mind.

Carmelo Ruggieri

Content Marketing Executive

Carmelo has years of experience in marketing, loves of all things tech and is a regular contributor to the OpsBase blog. He enjoys writing almost as much as he enjoys eating crunchy peanut butter and is likely to be found doing one or the other at any given point in time.

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