Restaurant Tips

Your Guide to Reopening Your Restaurant After COVID-19

While COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel as more and more states start to reopen. As federal and local governments begin to lessen restrictions on restaurants, you’ve likely started to think about how you’ll reopen. Although things are likely to look different for a while (some restaurants are talking about closing off parts of the street to accommodate for more outdoor dining space), getting back to how things were will take some time and planning.

Before we dive into the meat and potatoes of reopening your restaurant post-pandemic, our lawyers want us to tell you that this is not legal, tax, or HR advice. Please check with your local and state officials to understand what their guidelines are for reopening and make sure you adhere to them.

Now for the fun stuff.

Understand Local and Federal Guidelines

Everyone wants to get back to work. State and federal authorities are working to make sure you can do it in the safest way possible. Chances are you’re already offering curbside pick-up, delivery, and carry out (if not, we can help). But bringing people back to your restaurant for the genuine dine-in experience requires more planning.

You can find the federal guidelines for restaurant reopenings here.

Per the CDC, your local regulations are what you need to be following. 

  • Confirm your state’s reopening date
  • Check whether new regulations are in place for restaurant capacity
  • Review local reopening regulations
  • Revise standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on new guidelines
    • Write them out
    • Make sure every employee and even patrons know how you are protecting them

Over Communicate With Employees (and Patrons)

Chances are your employees feel in the dark with what’s happening. It’s scary. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. As their leader, they’re looking to you for reliable information. If getting together in person isn’t in compliance with local guidelines, try hosting weekly Zoom meetings to keep them up-to-date with the information you have and check-in on their mental health.

As you begin to get a picture of what your reopening will look like you’ll want to clearly communicate the new policies and procedures that will be put in place.

Speaking of employee care, it’s important to remember that some furloughed employees might not come back (either due to not feeling comfortable coming back, lack of childcare, or some other relevant issue). Plan to rehire as needed. 

  • Hold Zoom meetings as often as necessary, send group texts, keep everyone in the know
  • Make sure your Google My Business, website, and social media all share how you are working to follow guidelines 

Reinstate Employees

Reinstating employees will be a lengthy process that needs to be handled carefully. Be sure to check with your accountant and lawyer to ensure your complying with all guidelines. Here are a few things to consider/look into.

  • Have you reported a new hire, furloughed, or reinstated employee’s wage change status to the state?
  • Make sure all employees have an up-to-date W-4
  • You might need to complete section 3 of the I-9 or completely refill your employee’s I-9 to confirm employment eligibility
  • Ensure all employees have upt-o-date information in your payroll system
  • Consider how you plan to address employees who are fearful of returning to work 
    • This is an opportunity to let a healthy workplace culture shine
  • Plan schedules at least two weeks in advance to comply with predictive scheduling laws

Plan For Inspections

It’s highly likely that your local health department officials will need to perform an inspection prior to your opening. There is likely to be a long waiting list of other restaurants looking to get in touch with inspectors in your community. Starting early will help save you from having to wait too long and can get you opened faster.

  • Make a list of health inspectors/agencies in your community
  • Reach out to each of them via email asking what you can do to get a head start
    • Email allows you to keep a record of your communication
  • Start early, at least a couple weeks before the predicted reopening date for your restaurant.

Evaluate Inventory Needs 

Your inventory needs have likely drastically changed when compared to just a few months ago. While you might need less of one thing (maybe fewer straws) you are likely to need more of other things (face masks, hand sanitizer, disposable napkins instead of reusable ones).

We can anticipate that delivery and takeout are still going to be favored as patrons get used to the idea of dining in again. Make sure you have enough carry out containers.

  • Start early on ordering inventory. It’s likely masks and hand sanitizer are on backorder.
  • Pull a sales report from January and February. This will tell you what was most popular prior to the virus crisis and can help with planning orders.
  • Get an idea of what menu items might be too expensive to offer due to the cost of ingredients going up (or ingredients simply being unavailable).
  • Purchase single use condiments and determine SOP for distribution to customers (so as to minimize waste).
  • Order EPA approved disinfectants, single use cleaning supplies

Reevaluate KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Nearly every restaurant has taken a major hit to their bottom line. COVID sucks! Because of this it’s critical that you look at some key performance indicators that will help you understand how well your restaurant is faring in this new environment.

  • Calculate your new break even point (this is the amount of money you need to make to simply cover the cost of your dining in experience)
    • Total Fixed Costs ÷ ( (Total Sales – Total Variable Costs) / Total Sales) = Break Even Point
  • Calculate your new overhead rate (based on your predicted new capacity, inventory, the number of staff members you plan to have working during a shift, and sales projections)
    • Total Indirect (Fixed) Costs / Total Amount of Hours Open = Overhead Rate

There’s a lot that goes into reopening your restaurant in a post-COVID world. This just scratches the surface. We’re looking forward to seeing restaurants “rise from the ashes” and even come out better than they were when they started. 

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