As with many other businesses world-wide, the restaurant industry has been deeply impacted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In a global milieu where work from home, self-quarantine, traffic restrictions, and rampant business closures have become the norm, restaurants have been thrust into an unprecedented limelight. Although the public is being urged to avoid interactions with others, people still need to eat.
With so many businesses being temporarily halted by the coronavirus, working in foodservice may give you a unique advantage wherein demand for food and drink is high yet access to supply is low. If your eatery is still operating, it’s time to don your chef’s hats and think of ways to continue delivering your goods while still adhering to federal and health guidelines for safety.
As the world tries to adapt to a hitherto-unknown reality, new norms have been instituted to limit the damage inflicted by COVID-19. One such norm is the coinage of the term ‘social distancing.’
As part of government and health official attempts to stem the spread of this highly contagious virus, the public has been instructed to take extra measures to avoid close contact with other people. In addition to avoiding large social gatherings, the guidelines entail maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) between individuals.
Social Distancing: Tips for Restaurants
Here are some practical tips on how your establishment can step up to the plate and adhere to the new social distance protocols:
- Maintain staff awareness of the coronavirus situation and the advice being given by government authorities regarding restricted movement, limited contact, and self-isolation
- Space tables and chairs, as well as the checkout or payment queue, so that they remain six feel apart
- Remove indoor seating altogether
- Limit the number of people (customers and employees included) who are on the premises at any one time
- Offer curbside service where customers can pickup their food and eat in their cars parked in your parking lot
- Offer comprehensive takeout food services, including home delivery and remote pickup
Restaurant Food Safety During Corona
For millions of consumers worldwide, dining out is no longer an option. In response, independent businesses still open are turning to takeout and delivery models to stay alive. Essentially, all restaurants have become ghost restaurants overnight and are scrambling to successfully employ “no-contact” delivery. In the current culinary landscape, one frequently-being-asked question is: Is it safe to eat food someone else has prepared? Likewise, is it safe to have someone deliver your food?
According to physicians who specialize in infectious diseases, the answer to both questions is yes. Both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 virus can be transmitted via food.
At the same time, to ensure that your restaurant remains safe, your chefs and employees must do everything possible to deter the spread of coronavirus at all stages of the cooking and handling processes.
COVID-19 Restaurant Hygiene Practices
In the wake of the coronavirus, maintaining proper hygiene is more essential than ever. Here are some expert-recommended protocols to guide you:
- It goes without saying that individuals with any of the symptoms of COIVD-19 should not be working; this includes fever, cough, tiredness. In general, any employee feeling unwell should stay home
- Strict personal hygiene practices must be followed, including washing hands at the following times: Before starting work, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose, after using the toilet, before handling food, after handling and preparing raw food, after handling waste, after cleaning duties, after handling money
- To wash hands properly, follow these guidelines: Wet hands under warm running water; use enough soap to form a good lather; rub all parts of the hand up to the wrist with soap and water; lather for 20 seconds, thoroughly rubbing all surfaces (including the fingertips and thumbs); rinse hands thoroughly under running water using disposable paper towels; dry hands thoroughly
- Wearing disposable gloves while handling food is recommended although not necessary when proper handwashing procedures are in place
- The CDC advises the use of simple cloth face coverings, or disposable face masks, to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to help people who are unaware they have the virus from spreading it to others.
- If your staff wear gloves, follow these protocols: Since contaminated gloves can spread germs to the hands upon removal, handwashing must be carried out before putting gloves on, between glove changes, and after gloves are removed
- Gloves should also be changed frequently between non-food related tasks, i.e. after wiping counters, empting the trash, touching door handles, and handling money
- Clean touch points more frequently than usual (doorknobs, keypads)
Pick-Up Protocols for Online Orders
With the progression of the virus, foodservices have accepted that takeout, pickup, curbside pickup, and contactless delivery are the ‘default settings’ for the foreseeable future. In fact, although eating areas have been closed, the food-to-go industry has picked up steam.
Food delivery workers and UberEats drivers are reporting significantly more business than usual. The drivers say they are not overly concerned about exposure to the virus since their employers provide them with sanitization products (sanitizing hand wipes, gloves, face masks) and because they have limited contact with the public they are delivering to. Since orders are prepaid, their instructions are to simply leave the food at the door (or other predetermined location).
In keeping with professional health guidelines, conscientious restaurant owners are also advising their customers to wipe down delivery packaging with a sanitizing wipe, to wash their hands thoroughly after handling and opening the packages, and to dispose of the packaging immediately.
More Contactless Service
Part-and-parcel of contactless restaurant service is the provision of remote digital payment options. No doubt, your foodservice already offers customers some form of Internet-based payment. However, in the wake of the coronavirus, you might want to increase the range of your offerings to accommodate the largest number of diners.
The following is an up-to-date list of the most frequently used online payment gateways and service providers: Authorize.Net; PayPal; Google Checkout; Stripe; Amazon Payments; Dwolla; WePay; Braintree; Samurai by FeeFighters; 2Checkout.
How to Boost Your ‘Biz Despite the Shutdown
Your business may be temporarily shut down, but it’s not out, and there are actually many things you can do to promote and even boost your ‘biz while you wait. In no particular order, here are some strategic ideas to get you started:
Build or Update Your Website
If your restaurant does not yet have an active and attractive website, you are missing out on a golden marketing opportunity. Now is your chance to promote your eatery shamelessly by creating a user-friendly site that highlights your business’s best features and services.
An online presence is no longer a luxury in today’s competitive landscape; it is a necessity. A thoughtfully crafted website that caters to your customers’ interests, needs, and desires can be a game-changer that not only attracts traffic but keeps customers coming back for more.
Some recommended elements to include on your site are: Your contact information, menu details, special offers/promotions, book-in-advance options, a link to signup for your newsletter or blog (if relevant), and more.
Design a Standout Logo
Did you know that a savvy business logo can go a long way in building a trusting brand that the public sees, recognizes, and connects with? Place your logo on your menu, business cards, social media sites, website, and elsewhere. At the end of the day, the name of the restaurant-success-game in 2020 is to stand out from the crowd, so be as creative and bold in your logo’s design and concept as you see fit. Dare to dream!
Design a Magnificent Menu Card
While the world waits for the coronavirus to subside and for business-as-normal to resume, you can be busy securing the future of your eatery by reviewing every aspect of your services in an effort to fine-tune, upgrade, and innovate. When it comes to modern menus, many restaurants have already gone digital with either an in-house digital menu board that is regularly updated or a web-based menu that customers can access from anywhere on their personal tech devices.
According to self-reports, there is nothing consumers love more than being in the drivers’ seat as they browse through menus and craft their ideal meal combinations. Help them out with a compelling online menu that sounds as attractive as it tastes and that includes images of your chef’s masterpieces. At the same time, an equally appealing in-house menu is still highly relevant and says a lot about the services you offer and how you treat your customers.
Maximize Social Media
If you want to know where to locate and contact your existing and potential future customers, look no further than social media websites. It has never been easier to contact consumers (and global consumers to boot) outside of your restaurant’s premises. Be sure your ‘biz has a prominent and useful page on Facebook and Twitter where you regularly post relevant content regarding new developments in your establishment and where you can personally engage with the very people you service. In the same vein, cater to today’s photo-ravenous public by feeding them with standout pictures of their favorite dishes and of your chef’s head-turning, eye-catching, buzz-worthy culinary creations on Pinterest and Instagram.
Invest in Your Restaurant’s Future
At the end of the day, your restaurant will be judged by the quality of the service it provides. As you continue to boost your ‘biz during the coronavirus crisis, keep your eye on the future by researching new technological tools that will enhance and streamline your current operating system. Network with other restaurant owners to hear what works (and what doesn’t work) for them and share ideas on how to grow a foodservice business. Finally, check out how and where you can continue to train your staff in good manners and supreme serving etiquette. It pays to invest!