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How COVID-19 will change the restaurant industry: challenges and opportunities

As a restaurateur, your priority is the safety of your team and your guests. But after ensuring a safe environment, you’ll need to get proactive — and creative — to stay profitable during the current period of lower dine-in business. The existence of COVID19 in the world is going to require significant changes in social behavior before and when an effective vaccine is found, tested, produced and distributed to the majority of the population. This article aims to address above-and-beyond precautions that restaurants need to put in place to minimize the negative consequences of these changes.

Make your restaurant feel like a safe spot to guests 

The first step in combating Coronavirus is to make your restaurant as clean as possible. Take every initiative you can to keep your restaurant disinfected. But don’t just clean to make your restaurant safe. Send a message to your customers that your restaurant is a haven from what’s outside.

Open up your reservation policies 

  1. Put your updated menus on your website. Customers can just look them up when they're in the restaurant.
  2. Automate online booking and/or reservation system if available. Also, consider having an ordering app because it will surely become much more common. 
  3. Revisit your cancellation policies to accommodate the situation. Consider making changes to your floor plan. Space people out more so that tables are further apart.
  4. Minimize no-shows by communicating with guests to confirm existing reservations. It’s a good opportunity to reassure guests of the precautions you’re taking, and to offer any promotions you have to get them to complete the reservation: a complimentary appetizer, drink, loyalty rewards, etc.

Prepare your staff to deal with the current situation 

  1. Anything that more than one person can touch should be gotten rid of such as condiment sets. Replace them with single-use options.
  2. Put the cutlery in paper wrappers after being sterilized, either in a dishwasher or in a UV sterilizing device.
  3. If customers’ credit cards have to be entered in a machine then they should be wiped down with sanitizing wipes before being entered in the machine.
  4. Provide tissues inside and outside restrooms so that customers can open the doors without touching the handles with their bare hands. Print and frame notice about this. In the long run, you’ll need to consider foot-operated doors, sensor taps on the sinks and toilet flushes that don’t have to be touched.
  5. Switch off the air conditioners since the key factor for infection was the direction of the airflow.
  6. Appoint a Clean manager to oversee the property’s practices, temperature and health screening of employees, arrangements for engaging external suppliers and contractors, cleanliness and hygiene practices, and compliance with health and travel advisories and government orders on Covid-19.

The Coronavirus pandemic is a worldwide crisis, unprecedented in living memory. Not one expert or government official knows how long it will last, nor what the ultimate economic damage will be. Use this economic slowdown as an opportunity to build real relationships. The Coronavirus is a peculiar crisis in that it deprives us of the one thing that helps people adapt to crisis: each other. Your restaurant can be the place people come to get that connection back. Offer your community a safe place to come together, get to know them, serve them. You will inscribe a place for your restaurant in your community’s shared history.

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