How exciting, you have an amazing idea for a restaurant! You’re ready to get out there into the world and show it off! (insert screeching breaks here!!!!) Look, obviously, the world is not the same as it was before COVID showed up. Opening a restaurant at this time or in the near future will, of course, present all of the regular challenges, but there is a whole lot more to consider now. With the pandemic still doing rounds, resiliency and patience will be even more imperative to stay open and profitable. Be smart, pay attention, and remember to proceed with the utmost respect for your customers, employees, and everyone you do business with. Here are a few things to consider in your plan to open a restaurant during a pandemic.
Set Your Goals and Expectations
It’s important, more than ever, to know what your business goals are, as well as what you expect to happen over the first months and years after opening. Because of the pandemic, the financial and growth predictions for any business will look a little different. Of course, you want to think positively, but I recommend taking a dose of reality before you write your business plan. You might even want to consult with an expert to help you develop your ideas fully during these challenging times.
One of the most important things to consider is the health and safety of everyone who comes in contact with your restaurant, given that we’re still dealing with a virus that is highly contagious. Know that there will be some extra things to attend to navigate opening a restaurant right now. Cleaning and keeping the space sanitized will certainly become a high priority. Of course, be mindful of your budget, but consider using professional companies like Lafayette Kitchen Exhaust System Cleaning to do the deeper cleaning needed to keep a restaurant safe for everyone.
Let Everyone Know What They Can Expect
Just as you want to create a unique, successful restaurant, your employees and customers want to trust that the space is safe and will be worth their time and effort to be there. You can brief your employees about protocols and goals in advance of opening, but customers will also need to know what to expect before they walk through the door.
During this time, it is even more important to be clear about what is expected from customers, as well as what they can expect from you. You can communicate most of this on a website, social media page, and with phone greetings. Include guidance about mask-wearing, sanitizing, and whether your restaurant has social distancing measures put in place at this time. If you have limited seating, let them know this as well. Offering carry-out and pick-up options will also give customers options if they are not comfortable dining in yet.
No matter what you decide to do in your restaurant, make it clear and concise with appropriate signage from the front door to the restrooms. I know that each state in the US has varying pandemic mandates and protocols, so it’s up to you to know what is expected in your area. Additionally, this isn’t the time to be rebellious and ignore what has been recommended by the experts. You have a legal and moral obligation to do all that you can to keep people safe in your space. These signs will help everyone know what to expect and make an informed decision whether they want to enter your restaurant or not.
Choose a creative arrangement of dining tables, lobby seating, and even your service area. Employees and customers will appreciate your attention to detail and willingness to keep people safe. You might even be able to make this fun and visually interesting. In this case, your efforts become a unique feature that enhances the experience. If you have space for outdoor seating, consider making this a focal point for your restaurant. You can even add heating elements to keep customers warm in cooler weather. I think dining next to a fire is romantic.
Opening a restaurant at any time takes serious planning and focused time. Right now, it is even more imperative to take extra steps to create a solid and safe restaurant for the public to enjoy. Make sure to give yourself that time to do it right. At this point, there are likely consultants popping up that can help bring wisdom and stability to your plan.