Reopening your dine-in food business in the time of COVID-19 isn't a piece of cake. Let us flesh out what should comprise your checklist. Read on!
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been particularly kind to dine-in food establishments.
Other segments of the food and beverage (F&B) industry haven’t suffered as greatly, since people have to continue eating even with a deadly virus spreading. However, businesses that depend on volume and traffic, such as restaurants, bars, and food stalls, have bled a ton of cash due to mandatory and lengthy lockdowns.
Although the “new normal” caught most of us unprepared, the worst is probably behind us. As the curve flattens, the optimism of dine-in food business owners are on the rise—and rightfully so. Movement restrictions are easing up of late, and many consumers are itching to dine out again.
If you’re planning to reopen your food business soon, do the following to end a forgettable year strong.
Conduct a 360-degree evaluation of your site. If it hasn’t been used for a long time, you might have to carry out a deep clean, from work surfaces to dining areas and pieces to cooking equipment to utensils, before you could prepare food and let anyone eat in there.
Look for signs of infestation too. If you’ve mismanaged your food inventory during the pandemic, chances are that some vermin may have taken advantage of the opportunity. Smeared walls, gnawed furniture, pupal casings, animal droppings, foul smell, and tiny footprints in the dust are telltale signs of pest activity.
Further, get all of your kitchen equipment checked. You can’t declare that it’s all systems go until you’re 100% positive that your food processors, commercial stoves, grills, ovens, coffee machines, refrigerators, freezers, ice makers, dishwashers, HVAC units, and display systems are in good working condition.
Likewise, review their maintenance reports, and find out which ones require professional assessment after months of inaction.
Also, you should rethink the layout of your dining area. Many food establishments could get by without changing the current furniture arrangement. But you might have to if it’s not possible to observe proper social distancing with the current design.
Don’t forget about your utilities as well as sanitary facilities. The last thing you want is to deal with issues related to your electrical, water, ventilation, or plumbing system when many people are already on edge.
2. Implement Infection Prevention and Control Measures
At this point, we’re already familiar with what the government and the public expect from dine-in food establishments operating in the time of coronavirus. However, it’s up to the management to enforce the necessary measures to prevent or control the spread of COVID-19.
The initiative should start with your personnel. It’s imperative that your customers can see that each member of your team takes preventive measures seriously to inspire trust and confidence in your establishment.
To keep your personnel from contracting and bringing the dreaded disease to your establishment, they must:
To identify potential carriers of COVID-19 among your customers, make sure they:
To help everyone do their part, provide them with the necessary tools. Supplying your personnel with fresh PPE and cleaning essentials is half the solution.
The cost of floor mats with disinfectant, alcohol sprays, thermal scanners, transparent barriers, and pieces of coronavirus-related signage add up. But it’s a small price to pay for averting an outbreak at your establishment and having to close down once again.
The success of your implementation of infection prevention and control measures lies in the compliance and cooperation of each of your employees. Like how a house is just one bad foundation flaw away from collapse, your strategy is only one bad egg away from implosion.
So, how do you ensure that your team runs like a well-oiled machine during this pivotal period? Proper training.
Make sure that everyone’s on the same page. Don’t make the dangerous assumption that your personnel already know what to do just because we’re several months deep into the pandemic.
Inform them about the procedures they must follow in order to keep the virus at bay. They will have to unlearn some of their old habits and develop new, responsible ones to safeguard each other as well as diners.
Of course, there will be an adjustment period, but repetition is key. If you find an effective way to instill in them the best practices, they’ll wear PPE, interact with customers safely, observe cleanliness more frequently, and handle the trash properly like clockwork.
If you haven’t done so, introduce delivery and curbside pick-up services. We can’t stress enough the need to adopt these additional revenue streams. Until you can operate at greater capacity, generating your pre-pandemic revenue from diners alone is a pipe dream.
In the Philippines, 8.8 million people have adopted food delivery. And the overall segment revenue is expected to grow by 17.4% annually from 2020 to 2024.
To get started with delivery service, consider partnering with leading food delivery apps like foodpanda, GrabFood, or Zomato.
The advantages of taking this route is improved online visibility without paid ads, increased customer reach, and guaranteed payment. However, significant order commissions and other fees are the disadvantages.
If you think the negatives outweigh the positives, launch your own delivery service. It’s more viable when you have a huge following online since you’ll be doing all of the heavy lifting. If it clicks with your patrons, it could become your cash cow over the long term.
When it comes to curbside pick-up service, here are some solid strategies:
To succeed here, provide clear pickup instructions. Collecting the wrong customer information, choosing inconspicuous and inefficient pickup locations, and not having dedicated staff to handle orders are big no-nos.
Neither delivery or curbside pickup service is low-hanging fruit. But with thoughtful execution, either could bring home the bacon.
Actually, now is an apt time to embrace an advanced point-of-sale system to track your sales based on transaction type, delivery, pick-up or dine in. And to even get a breakdown on revenue generated from Grab, foodpanda, and many other delivery platforms.
Most importantly, keep your ears open for COVID-19-centric updates issued by the authorities. With the way things are going, more relaxed measures are on the horizon to aid steady economic recovery.
Fortunately, the national government tends to announce the latest guidelines regularly. However, local governments reserve the right to propose unique and targeted initiatives to combat the spread of coronavirus in certain areas as they see fit.
Beware of conflicting policies. Reach out to relevant agencies to clarify issues regarding maximum seating capacity, operating hours, and curfews, among others.
The COVID-19 outbreak brought half of the F&B industry to a standstill, driving many entrepreneurs bankrupt and leaving countless workers jobless in the process. But we are already seeing signs of bounce back and recovery, , and things are starting to stabilize. Since business as usual may never be exactly the same again, you should plant the seeds of greater profitability now.