The world has been impacted by the coronavirus crisis in a way that hasn’t been seen in many of our lifetimes. COVID-19 has caused most states and countries to shut down, closing businesses of all kinds that are deemed non-essential. Your restaurant is still open, but you cannot allow any dine-in services for now. How can your establishment survive in the weeks and months ahead?
To get your restaurant through the coronavirus crisis, we recommend the following:
- Create an employee safety protocol
- Promote your delivery and pickup services to your customers
- Plan your short-term and long-term finances
- Apply for a small business loan if necessary
- Sanitize your restaurant every day
- Continue offering exceptional customer service
Read on for more information on what to do so your restaurant can continue serving people when they need smiles on their faces the most.
6 Steps to Follow for Restaurant Survival During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Institute Employee Safety Rules
Owning a restaurant is already an iffy venture in a more stable world with an equally stable economy. Now that our universe has been flipped upside down by COVID-19, maintaining your restaurant goals becomes that much more difficult.
Profits will be important, but you must remember that the safety of your employees and the customers you serve is paramount above all else.
Since customers can’t come into the restaurant to eat, that leaves them with one of two ways to get their food. They can either order by phone or online and then come and pick up their meal or have your employees deliver to them.
Curbside pickup entails the customer staying in their car, rolling their window down, and letting the employee put the meal in a front seat or back seat. Delivery has become contactless, meaning the employee drives up and leaves the meal on the porch for the customer to pick up when they feel ready.
Your staff may not have direct customer contact for a while, but you still need to play it safe. Every single day your staff works, each employee needs a surgical mask and gloves.
The mask can be reusable or single-use. If it’s the latter, then the employee should be able to wear it for the day and then throw it away. Reusable masks should be worn, washed, dried, and then worn again the next day.
Gloves do not stay on for nearly as long as surgical masks. It’s still possible to pass the virus along if you or an employee touches a dirty surface and then touches something else like a meal bag or a pizza box with the same pair of gloves.
Ideally, employees should change out their gloves after they touch anything, so make sure you have a generous supply ready.
You may also consider using contact tracing among your staff. Each day, you’d ask your employees where they went and who they were with. This can let you gauge how high-risk they may be for the virus. Temperature checks are ideal as well, using a thermometer if you can.
Make sure your employees know that they should not come in if they’re feeling sick, even if they’re just slightly ill. COVID-19 can be transferred even among asymptomatic patients, which you can’t plan for. However, temperature checks and contact tracing are two great defenses.
Let Your Customers Know You’re Open
Restaurants have been deemed essential businesses, which means they can stay open amid this crisis. Still, not every restaurant has done so. Those that cannot deliver because of the cuisine they sell have either had to offer only curbside pickup or shut down entirely.
Your usual customers may not even know you’re open. You certainly want to post on social media and tell everyone that yes, you’re still in business. If you’re offering curbside pickup, delivery, or both, inform your customers of that as well.
Now is also a really good time to try to get on an online food ordering service if you’re not already using these. The three most popular services are Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. Here’s how you become a part of all three of these services.
As a Grubhub Partner, you gain access to marketing tools that can promote your business. You also get to skip the activation fees and other associated costs. You even get a tablet for order management.
According to the service, most of their restaurant clients, 85 percent, said they’ve gotten more delivery orders and a higher takeout volume once they signed up to become a Grubhub partner.
You can use the link above to get started. At the bottom of the page is a form where you fill in your first and last name, your email address, phone number, restaurant name, and your zip code.
When you’re approved, you can access your restaurant login portal here and sign in anywhere, be that on your restaurant’s computer, your smartphone, or a tablet. Once you click “start taking orders,” which is a green button, your restaurant is open for business for the day. The red “stop taking orders” button signifies that you’re done until tomorrow.
You’re also considered a partner on Uber Eats when your restaurant gains approval. The signup process is much like Grubhub’s, in that you begin by sharing information about your restaurant. This includes the name, address, phone number, your name, and your email address.
Next, you write a blurb about your establishment and upload the menu items you want to offer through Uber Eats. When your restaurant is on their app, you go to your Restaurant Dashboard anytime you want to take new orders, manage the orders you do have, or close down for the day.
Your third option, DoorDash, follows the same process. According to them, more than 300,000 establishments are already on DoorDash. You may be able to make a profit through incremental orders at a healthy rate of 60 percent, as DoorDash says it has a large breadth of American customers, 80 percent in all.
After filling in your contact information, write a bit about your restaurant, upload your menu, and then get started making money on DoorDash.
Plan Financially in the Short-Term and Long-Term
It used to be so easy to plan your monthly and quarterly revenue. You had your regulars who always came in as well as the new customers your continual marketing attracted. Now you have none of them, or at least, certainly not as many as before.
That makes financial planning from month to month much more of a struggle than it used to be. Unfortunately, it’s going to be this way for the foreseeable future. In much of the US, lockdown restrictions are very, very slowly being lifted. Most state governors are beginning with parks, golf courses, and beaches, not businesses.
You’re open at least, and you have a job. That’s more than millions of Americans–not to mention millions and millions more around the world–can say.
Your employees have jobs too, and the main question becomes how will you pay them when revenue underperforms? This is a hard question to answer, but it’s one you must come up with a feasible solution for.
Some restaurant owners have opted to dock their own pay so their employees can bring in a paycheck. Others might be taking money that’d be set aside for restaurant maintenance or upgrading and using that for employees instead. More still rely on loan money, which we’ll discuss more in the next section.
We can’t tell you how to pay your employees, but you have to do it somehow. These people are risking their lives each time they arrive at your restaurant to work. They’re also risking their lives when they drive out to people’s homes or put curbside orders in a stranger’s car. If they don’t get paid, they’ll either strike or quit.
There may be millions of people without jobs right now, but those who don’t want to be in the thick of things will not apply for your open roles. That might make it hard to find replacement employees at your restaurant.
The word that’s been thrown around a lot lately is the new normal. Even once restrictions begin getting lifted, things won’t be the same as we knew them earlier in 2020 for at least the rest of this year, if not into 2021.
Given that we have about two months of data to go on since the coronavirus became a true threat, that’s enough history that you can make models and predictions that inform what the rest of your restaurant’s financial year might look like. Then it’s all about planning as you usually do, but with keeping this new normal in mind.
Do also have room in your modeling to accommodate for the fact that your restaurant may open back up to in-dining services before the year is out. This may or may not play a role in your company’s bottom line. You have to expect that even if they’re allowed to, not all customers and would-be customers of yours will feel comfortable sitting to eat in a restaurant right away. Thus, most of your income may continue to stem from deliveries and pickups.
Consider a Small Business Loan
Are you having a hard time making ends meet due to lost income that you would have had if COVID-19 hadn’t wreaked havoc on the world? You’re far from the only one who might be struggling for cash.
That’s why the US federal government signed the CARES Act in March 2020. The acronym stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
The CARES Act provides $2 trillion to give small businesses, individuals, economy workers, and federal and state governments some relief. Under the CARES Act is the Paycheck Protection Program. This is more what you’re interested in as a restaurant owner, as it’s a loan for restaurants and small businesses.
The Paycheck Protection Program had fewer funds allocated to it initially, only $349 billion. As of April 2020, the US federal government replenished the Paycheck Protection Program funds, with a relief package totaling $484 billion. This money is split among many resources, such as more coronavirus tests, hospital assistance, and business funding.
The Paycheck Protection Program can help with the problem we discussed in the last section: paying your staff. You’ll now have money to provide a steady paycheck as you did before the COVID-19 crisis began.
If your employees stay on the payroll for at least eight weeks and all the money you receive under the Paycheck Protection Program goes towards utilities, mortgage interest, rent, or payroll, the U.S. Small Business Administration or SBA will forgive the loan.
To join the program, apply through a Farm Credit System institution or a credit union or depository institution that’s federally insured. SBA 7(a) lenders can also get your restaurant employees funding through the Paycheck Protection Program.
If you’re eligible under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, this received $50 billion more in funding in April 2020. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan through the SBA allows businesses to receive $10,000 or less if they’re having difficulties related to COVID-19. You’re eligible to apply if you have under 500 employees.
Keep Your Restaurant Clean Daily
You have a typical routine at your restaurant. Customers come in and order, and when their empty plates return to the kitchen, your dishwashing staff gets to work. You make sure you’re never out of clean plates, cups, bowls, and utensils and that nothing is ever reused before it’s washed.
Those are great hygiene rules to follow, but you’re not done yet. You also have to sanitize your restaurant to protect it from COVID-19.
It doesn’t matter that you don’t have customers coming in anymore. Anyone who steps foot into your restaurant as a staff member, yourself included, could bring germs in with them. Even if you’ve passed every health inspection your restaurant has ever undergone with flying colors, you can’t get lax now.
Here are the things you need to start doing every single day your restaurant is in operation.
Washing Your Hands
You usually wash your hands after going to the bathroom or touching some foods, but the way you wash your hands during the COVID-19 outbreak is incredibly important. A quick swipe of your hands under the water with a drop of soap won’t suffice.
You want to turn on a source of water and let it get warm. If you can handle somewhat hot water, then set the faucet to hot. You don’t want to scald yourself though, so be careful.
Next, squirt some soap onto your hands. Begin lathering, making sure you get all parts of your hands. Don’t forget in between your fingers and your thumbs–both the inside and the outside. These are commonly missed areas.
Lather up for 20 seconds. You can sing your favorite song, hum something, or even count down in your head. When you’re done, rinse all the soap away, turn off the water, and dry your hands using paper towels. A commonly-used cloth towel is a great way to spread germs, so don’t keep these around.
We have to talk about hand sanitizer for a moment too. It’s great to use if you can’t get to a source of soap and water, even though that shouldn’t be the case at your restaurant. Going forward, anytime you need to use hand sanitizer, make sure yours is at least 60-percent alcohol, with 70 percent ideal. Otherwise, the sanitizer is not effective.
Cleaning the Bathrooms
You probably won’t have time to clean the bathrooms anytime someone uses them, but a few times a day isn’t too many. The toilets, the stalls themselves, and the sinks must be disinfected inside and out. Use sanitizing solution such as bleach to guarantee the cleanliness of the bathrooms. Make sure you’re wearing protective eyewear and gloves while handling harsh cleaning chemicals.
Wiping Glass Surfaces Like Doors and Windows
Also several times a day, you want to clean any glass surfaces throughout your restaurant. From tables to doors and windows, these can get streaky and smudgy if anyone touches them. For aesthetics as well as hygiene then, don’t forget to wipe these down using a glass cleaner and disinfecting spray.
Even with all these extra cleaning efforts, dishes still have to get cleaned. There’s no need to largely change the technique you use when wishing dishes, nor the frequency. So far, it’s not been proven that COVID-19 is transferrable through food.
Still, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. When you or your staff washes dishes, you might want to wear rubber gloves. Remember that you can transfer germs from one surface to another even with gloves on, so change these appropriately.
Disinfecting Commonly-Touched Areas
Many parts of your restaurant get touched a lot as your staff comes in each day. These areas can include tabletops, railings, menus, and door handles.
Again, if you’re busy, you can’t clean these items each and every time someone touches them, but try to do it as often as you can. It’s all about reducing the spread of the virus.
Cleaning the Kitchen
You should never close for the day without having thoroughly disinfected your kitchen. Any equipment that your employees have touched, and even those that may not have been touched must be cleaned spotlessly.
This is one of those instances where you cannot clean until your restaurant is closed for business. Bleach and other cleaning agents could leave residue behind that would be toxic to your customers. Don’t put their health at risk in a different way when trying to protect them from COVID-19!
Mopping and Sweeping
On the daily, sweep and mop the hard floors throughout your restaurant. Again, while it hasn’t been proven, you never know if someone can bring the virus in on their shoes. If one of your employees touches the dirty floor because they dropped something, they could then potentially be exposed.
For that same reason, you should vacuum after each shift ends, especially focusing on debris and crumbs that may have accumulated throughout the day.
Prioritize Your Customers
You’re terrified of the coronavirus, but you’re putting on a brave face. All your customers feel the same way. Their lives have also been ripped away from them. They may not even be working.
Think of what your restaurant means to them at a time like this. The food you serve is a great chance for your customers to gather with the family they’re allowed to see and share a meal. Togetherness has become very cherished lately, which is one of the only upsides of this worldwide pandemic.
The language you use in your social media posts and even your television and radio commercials should be empathic and kind. You want to make it as convenient for your customers to order from you, such as online or through Grubhub and related services. Push your contactless delivery so you can put your customers’ minds at ease.
The approach you take now can help you hold onto your favorite customers and even bring on a few new ones.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it forever. We may now be at a phase where, several months after it started, businesses are finally beginning to reopen, but we’re not out of the woods.
Whether your restaurant is freshly reopened, or you’ve stayed open all this time, navigating through this crisis is anything but easy. The steps and tips we provided in this article will point you in the right direction of keeping your restaurant clean, making sure your employees get paid, and prioritizing your customers. If you do all that, you should be able to survive this pandemic and enjoy all that comes after. Best of luck!