Greenhouse quarantine dining restaurant design option from Amsterdam
Around the world, thousands of restaurants were the first of many businesses to be shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Restaurant teams have lived with the anxiety of being forced to close without a clear opening date in sight for two months (or longer in some regions).
Now, as we approach the first summer of the decade, the food industry is getting optimistic about phased reopening plans to open their doors (and kitchens!) to customers once again.
Here are five tips for your restaurant to come back better than ever:
1. Don't Panic
Easier said than done, we know, but remember that feeding your anxiety will only make you less productive.
Change your mindset to a positive and proactive one.
Rather than wait in fear for the latest headlines, focus on how you can plan and take action to proceed.
You’ll feel more in-control and you’ll be more productive - a welcome surprise after weeks in quarantine limbo!
2. Expand your Brand
While in shutdown, maximize your delivery business by reaching out to neighboring restaurants to share delivery staff and routes.
2020’s turn of events have been a humbling experience for everyone, so even your “competitors” are likely to be open to the conversation.
These partnerships not only strengthen your relationships in the community, they also help to keep staff employed.
Don’t allow your restaurant’s brand to stop at the exit. Work with a company like Ultimate Promo that offers restaurant-specific marketing to brand your packaging.
If money’s tight, putting a sticker with your logo on bags and boxes does the trick!
In addition, brainstorm how you can add social value to your customers’ orders: a small hand sanitizer or pen shows appreciation and reminds the customer of your restaurant every time they use it!
3. Curate a Mindful Menu
Simple menu options
While Insta-worthy souffles may have gone viral in the past (pun intended), customers in quarantine aren’t trying to impress anyone.
Comfort food options pair well with Netflix-binging and day-drinking, and don’t forget the kids! The last thing any parent wants after a long day of homeschooling and conference calls, is their children whining over what’s for dinner.
The key here is a simple menu with simple ingredients. From a practical standpoint, uncomplicated and healthy options target a wider group of potential customers.
With your kitchen operating at bare-bones capacity, there’s no money to waste on ingredients that will expire if no one orders that unique dish. We need to sell food while it’s fresh!
Covid-19 has greatly impacted the global food supply chain, specifically the meat industry, so focusing on vegetarian dishes can also help your menu weather the storm.
Whatever plates are on your menu, make sure they’re consistent on all of the ordering platforms, including Seamless, GrubHub, and your restaurant’s website.
An unexpected money-maker? Booze to-go! If it’s allowed in your region, create a to-go drink menu of a few cocktails that people can pick up at a window and proceed to drink to buzz out the catastrophe.
4. Put on your aprons - and masks!
Sit down with your lead team to develop a strategic, long-term plan to keep your overhead low.
How can you reduce your usual expenses by 40%? Yes, that’s 40%, but it’s not as scary as it looks.
Reach out to your vendors to ask about discounts and payment plans; they will probably be happy to get the business and be willing to work with you. Ditto for your utility, operating, and rent costs.
With regards to negotiating rents, especially, it will be important to consult with a good attorney that specializes in commercial leases, to navigate the finer points relating specifically to COVID-19 that likely will be evolving as courts open up again.
Anticipate re-opening your doors to a reduced number of customers.
Just because people can dine out doesn’t mean they will, at least for a little while. Plan accordingly when bringing back staff and laying out supplies.
Stay up-to-date on OSHA regulations, train your staff, and buckle down on an intense cleaning schedule.
You’ll also want to reevaluate common germ-spreaders.
Think: disposable menus and encouraging customers to bring their own utensils.
Your staff and customers will appreciate the extra effort.
5. Get Creative
Countertop with Antimicrobial properties at the Greek Restaurant
Famed restaurateur Tom Colicchio of Crafted Hospitality grimly predicts that 75% of restaurants won’t be able to bounce back from the crisis without some kind of intervention.
How can you be in the lucky 25%?
Focus on an open layout and maximizing outdoor space. You’ll clearly want to separate tables as much as possible and accommodate social distancing in the waiting area.
Then, it’s time to get creative and enhance the space in between!
Incorporate antimicrobial materials like quartz and copper countertops and cork flooring in your design to add a unique (and practical!) flair.
At Greca, one of our favorite projects, owner Tom Galis is utilizing shelf space to create a mini market featuring canned goods, pasta, and other pantry staples.
A Dutch restaurant built “quarantine greenhouses” to attract customers to a socially distanced dining experience.
Restaurateurs who are creative, open-minded, and flexible will be able to rebound from the crisis and hit the ground running!