server with mask on taking table side payment on patio

Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CNN, “the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be the probably one of the most difficult times that we experience in American public health” due to both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. 

While your state may be open for business now, that might not be the case come this fall. By looking to the start of the pandemic, as well as states that have had to regress their reopenings, you can better prepare for the uncertainty ahead.

3 Ways To Get Your Restaurant Ready for A Possible Second Wave of COVID-19

1. Prepare Your Outdoor Space for Cold Weather

Two things are keeping most restaurants afloat right now: outdoor dining and online ordering. If dining rooms still aren’t allowed to open at full capacity (or at all) by late fall/winter, where does that leave restaurants located in the colder climates? There are a few options that may allow you to extend patio season.

Build an All-over Covering Over Your Outdoor Seating Area

Table umbrellas are great to block out the sun, but when the rain hits, it’s not going to protect guests from getting wet. Cover your patio completely with either a permanently built structure or tent tops, as long as it’s allowed by your state policies.

KRAKOW, POLAND - December 6, 2019: Outdoor restaurantes with christmas decorations on main square Rynek Glowny

Invest in Outdoor Heating Elements

For colder climates, powerful radiant space heaters can make the chilly outdoors feel like a comfortable dining room. If you have enough space and can get cleared by the local fire department, an outdoor fireplace or fire pit will really amp up the cozy vibes as well. If you really want to plan ahead, purchase some of these now as they may run out if there is a rush on them later in the year.

Provide Blankets for Guests

There are restaurants who already have an outdoor space that they utilize in the winter using these methods. Many of them also loan blankets to chilly guests if the heaters aren’t enough to keep them warm. While you won’t be able to loan them a reusable blanket due to the germs, you could keep a stash of pre-wrapped blankets (like the ones you find on airplanes) to give guests or offer for a small fee.

Get Furniture That Can Withstand the Elements

Investing in sturdy patio furniture that can stand up to both high heat and extreme cold without warping, discoloring, or peeling will keep your outdoor seating area looking good and save you money in replacement furniture.

Get prepared to re-open or reassess your business strategy and pivot for the post-coronavirus landscape with our free Restaurant Recovery Handbook.

2. Keep an Eye on Estimates From the Experts

Since predictions of a second wave of the pandemic are always changing due to government regulations, mask mandates, and breakthroughs in treatments for the coronavirus, it’s important to be prepared for all possibilities while staying up-to-date on the latest data and trends.

Staying informed also means getting information via a reliable trusted source, such as:

Currently, 37 states are still seeing an increase in daily new cases, with some rolling back restrictions to earlier phases or closing all together in order to stop the spread. When shutdowns in the US began mid-March due to COVID-19, businesses had to close with little-to-no warning. Now is the time to reflect on the past few months and think what you would have done differently in March, and use the knowledge you have now to prepare for a worst case scenario  from a second wave in the fall.

Restaurant owners can look to California as an example of a state that reopened then later shut down again, and learn from their findings to help you move forward. On July 2, the state released a guide for bars, restaurants, and wineries to help navigate the second wave closure. 

While these guidelines may not be mandatory in your state yet, it’s a good idea to either implement some of these practices in order to keep your staff and guests safe, or at least be prepared in the event your state enacts similar mandates to prevent a second wave of cases.

Required Use of Face Coverings

Masks or other face coverings are required when interacting with members of the public, in any space where food is prepared, working in or walking through common areas, or when one is in an enclosed room or vehicle with other people (besides their own family members). Employers should either be providing or reimbursing their employees for face coverings. As for customers, your restaurant may require face coverings for all guests, but you should also be aware of medical exemptions and how to handle them.

Vilnius, Lithuania - May 15 2020: Waiter with a mask and gloves and client at the table of an outdoor bar, cafe or restaurant, reopening after quarantine

Establishing a Workplace Plan

The California guide recommends establishing a workplace plan so that all of your procedures and policies are laid out in one place, making it easier for staff to abide by them and all be on the same page. 

Some items to include in your plan are:

  • Risk assessments for each position.
  • Contact information for the local health department in case of an outbreak, as well as protocols for an outbreak occurrence.
  • A training plan for staff (see more below).
  • A procedure for regularly assessing staff compliance with the plan.

Staff Training 

It’s important to train your entire staff on your written plan to ensure everyone is aware of the new policies and has the tools to abide by them.

Some important things to cover with your staff include:

  • How to prevent the spread of the virus through proper masking, social distancing, hand-washing, using hand sanitizer, and other precautions. 
  • Ensuring any contractors, vendors, or other partners who are inside your restaurant follow the same precautions as the rest of the staff.
  • Self-screening at home, self-quarantining if they display any symptoms, and not returning to work for 14 days or until they receive a negative test. (If a staff member displays symptoms, it’s best for anyone who was in contact with them for the past two weeks to also self-quarantine and be tested.) 
  • Updated cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Ideally surfaces should be disinfected after each use, but if that is not possible come up with an hourly schedule and assign cleaning tasks.

3. Pivot Your Business Model in the Event Dine-in is Not Possible

Implement Native Online Ordering

Like we said above, online ordering is one of the tools that is helping most restaurants survive right now. From February to April we saw a 169% increase in the number of restaurants actively using Online Ordering with Upserve as restaurants quickly innovated and pivoted to takeout and delivery. If you haven’t gotten on board with online ordering just yet, now is the time to implement a system so that you aren’t scrambling to get it up and running after another shut down. 

Using an expensive third-party system right now? Check out Upserve’s Online Ordering Cost Calculator to see how much you could be saving with a native system.

Invest in Long-term Changes & Diversify Your Revenue Streams

In a recent survey conducted by Rewards Network, 31% of respondents said they’ll be investing in delivery services and/or delivery technology, while 42% said they would be adjusting their restaurant’s layout and 28% stated they are looking to expand their patio area. Regardless of your state’s open status, some guests will just not be comfortable dining in, so it’s important to offer as many options as possible to hold onto their business.

For guests who are either ready to dine in or considering it, promotion and marketing are key. Discounts, specials, and new menu items are still important, but as 60% of survey respondents stated, promoting your cleaning and sanitation practices are now a key element of attracting and retaining customers via your marketing streams.

If possible, open up your revenue streams beyond the obvious. It’s no surprise that takeout and delivery took the top spots when those surveyed were asked about the different ways they boosted their revenues. However, those who got creative and thought outside the box – like offering family or take-and-bake meals, promoting gift cards, and selling grocery kits – were able to generate more business for themselves.

Get prepared to re-open or reassess your business strategy and pivot for the post-coronavirus landscape with our Restaurant Recovery Handbook.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.