The slow and careful process for re-opening parts of the country is beginning. States will soon allow dine-in service at restaurants and other foodservice establishments again, but with some caveats such as continuing to practice safe social distancing.

The coronavirus pandemic will drastically change how dine-in services look. According to California Governor Gavin Newsom, who leads one of the hardest-hit states in the country, a likely scenario would be, “You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask, dinner where the menu is disposable, where half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment.”

Extra precautions will have to be taken for establishments to offer this service. It will take additional work, which will be yet another major adjustment for businesses in these challenging times. The National Restaurant Association offers some tips for a smooth re-opening.

  • Understand new rules and limitations – Some things to consider are purchasing masks and gloves for staff, how will front-of-house staff enforce customer occupancy limits and physical distancing rules and who will train staff on new tools, procedures and sanitation regimens
  • Follow established guidelines for reopening safely – Be educated on protocols for safe food handling, cleaning and sanitizing, employee health and hygiene and social distancing
  • Deep clean and sanitize your restaurant – Through either your staff or a specialty service, have every single surface in the front- and back-of-the-house deep cleaned
  • Reconfigure and rethink the dining room – Space out tables and chairs, as well as bar stools, and possibly even put barriers between booths
  • Think about ways to maximize revenue – Fewer customers allowed inside means that you’ll have to get creative with additional seating areas and simplified menus
  • Take care of all the tasks you had carve out time to do for before –  Additional safety measures will add to prep time
  • Reorder food, drink and supplies and restart services – Every other restaurant in your area will be reopening and restocking simultaneously, so allow plenty of time to get deliveries ramped up
  • Evaluate your hiring needs – Your staffing requirements may be different than they were before
  • Get the word out – When the time is right, let your customers know that you’re ready to go your website, social media and special marketing campaigns
  • Save every receipt – They’ll be needed for loan documentation, rent relief, insurance claims and taxes. Track every single expenditure, from special cleaning services to purchase of COVID-19-related gear

For more information on re-opening safely and reassuring the public that social gathering for a meal is a safe activity, download the the National Restaurant Association COVID-19 Reopening Guidance.