54 Tips for Your COVID-19 Strategy
Reopening Your Establishment During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Even back in October 2019, 60% of all restaurant and foodservice sales were takeout, drive-through, and delivery according to a National Restaurant Association survey. And now, not surprisingly, with the pandemic caused by COVID-19, consumers’ behavior is shifting in this direction even more so. By March 23, 2020, 43 states had official orders in place to shut down dine-in options to comply with public health guidance. Due to these mandated shutdowns, Yelp saw a large shift toward takeout and delivery.
Also, within a matter of just a few short weeks, the expectations from customers have changed significantly when it comes to dining in. In order to keep your sales flowing when reopening your bar or restaurant during the pandemic, not only will you need to adjust to meet these new expectations, but you also must comply with the rules set in place by your state’s regulators.
Whether you are a part of the PourMyBeer family and have a self-pour beverage wall or not, there are many factors that will need to be modified when it comes to running your day-to-day operations. Although this is a very unexpected new normal, there are several precautions that you can put in place to make sure both your guests and employees remain safe, such as social distancing, sanitizing restaurant equipment, hand hygiene compliance monitoring, and more.
Also, we have created this easy-to-follow Reopening Checklist that will help you reopen your establishment without forgetting anything!
It is going to take time to get used to what is now considered our new “normal” bar, restaurant, or brewery setup. Things are bound to be a bit weird and awkward in the beginning and that is completely expected. Now is the time to learn how to safely reopen your bar or restaurant and come up with a COVID-19 strategy that is right for your business. This is why we are bringing you 54 tips on how to tackle adjusting to the COVID-19 hospitality industry:
54 Tips to Help You Create Your Own COVID-19 Strategy
On-Site Changes for Your Restaurant & Bar Business
With the shutdown of dine-in options at restaurants across the U.S., there is no doubt that diners’ expectations are different now that the doors are starting to open up again. It is crucial to have various practices in place to show your customers that you are doing everything you can to make your restaurant as safe as possible.
In this section, we will breakdown some operational on-site changes you can implement, different cleaning tactics to choose from, and also how to adjust your restaurant’s capacity.
Operational Changes to Promote Public Health
1. Minimize Touchpoints for Guests & Staff
As a general rule of thumb, you should try to reduce the number of touchpoints and the amount of cross-contamination at your establishment to a bare minimum.
If possible, try to minimize:
- Number of staff handling food and drink orders.
- Number of staff handling tableware.
- When making drinks, avoid any extra decorations and any other unnecessary ways to spread germs, such as decorative umbrellas.
- Keep all garnishes covered and only use tongs when putting any limes, lemons, or other items into a drink.
- All straws should be individually wrapped and left for the customers to unwrap them.
2. Implement Online Ordering from the Table
Typically, the first thing you hand customers when they sit down is the menu, which is not ideal considering the current circumstance we are finding ourselves in. We suggest putting a link or QR code to your online menu on your table. This way guests will be able to access your menu from their smartphones. With online ordering, the customer completely avoids touching the menu and has full control to place their order whenever they want.
Whether you have a bar or a fast-casual establishment, or an upscale restaurant, BBOT is a great option for ordering online directly from your table. This app is a contactless ordering solution built for both on- and off-premise ordering. With a quick and easy onboarding set up, you’ll have a fully customized and branded online ordering site that’s capable of handling multiple menus, ordering ahead, capturing data, it even has a high volume mode, and much more. And when you’re ready to reopen, BBOT Smart Ordering will keep your guests safe – no app or sign up required!
PourMyBeer Tip: Implementing an online, on-site menu will also completely eliminate any staff error when placing a food order since the ordering process is entirely in the hands of the consumer – meaning the chances of unhappy customers are eradicated. It’s a win-win!
3. Adjust Your Menu Display
If you can’t implement online ordering, you can provide disposable menus. If your bar or restaurant has TVs, you can put your menu on the screens to provide extra exposure to your food menu. You can even include photos of specific food items, which could lead to boosted food sales.
4. Go Cashless
If you are not cashless yet, go cashless or at least do so during this period; however, make sure to let customers know via social media or signage at the entranceway to avoid unpleasant situations when the time for payment comes.
If you can, implement Google Pay, Apple Pay, or something similar so your guests can pay over their phones or through your app (if you have or plan to have one).
5. Glove Up
Staff members should wear gloves at all times. Whether it is the person handling the glass replenishment, taking payment, or checking ID, they should make your customers feel at ease by wearing gloves. However, it is important to remember that gloves must be changed frequently to eliminate cross-contamination as they are not a solution.
6. Mask Up
According to research conducted by the American Medical Association, the Coronavirus has a base reproduction, or R0 value of between 2 and 2.5, which means that someone with the virus is expected to infect, on average, 2 other people. This does not sound like much, but compare this to the seasonal flu, which has an R0 of a little over 1. After 10 generations of infection, this difference can be in the tens of thousands of infected individuals. In other words, one person who is infected with the virus poses a massive risk to others, not simply because they may affect 2 other people but because they can start a chain reaction of infection that spreads at an alarming rate.
7. Adjust Your Staff Training Program
When reopening your bar or restaurant, it is extremely important to manage the health and safety of your employees. One way to do this is to introduce new training programs for staff members (whether new or returning) that will provide more detail about the importance of sanitation and any other operational changes that you plan to apply as part of your post-COVID strategy. Among others, we recommend demonstrating the proper way to wash your hands during a staff training. All staff members should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Also, make sure to communicate that the physical space between employees and customers should be increased during these times.
8. Communicate the Importance of Sanitizing to Staff
Have signs around the kitchen and bar areas reminding them to wash their hands, sanitize, and avoid touching their face. You should also have hand sanitizer stations throughout your establishment to encourage sanitizing, but check that your hand sanitizer is at least 60% alcohol to kill all germs.
9. Monitor Employee’s Health & Update Sick Policy
You should also put a system in place to monitor employee’s health and update your sick policy to ensure that staff members don’t come into work with any symptoms. On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor put a temporary rule in place titled The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This Act states that any American employer with less than 500 employees will be reimbursed with tax credits to cover the cost of providing employees paid sick leave due to COVID-19.
Make sure your employees are healthy and do not pose a risk of infecting patrons by taking temperatures daily and having them sign off that they are not experiencing any common COVID-19 signs or symptoms.
10. Use Signage Encouraging Social Distancing
There should be extra signage added around your establishment encouraging customers to avoid further spreading of germs by practicing social distancing and other safety precautions.
11. Trim Down Your Menu
With consumers still wary about dining in at restaurants and having a restricted capacity inside your establishment, consider making menu changes to better manage your inventory cost. Think about what your most popular items are and keep those, but take off items that aren’t ordered as commonly. This way you aren’t wasting money on food that won’t be eaten and you will be simplifying your operations.
12. Divide Up Your Shareable Plates
If your bar or restaurant has shareable plates, guests should have the option to have them individually split onto four different plates at most.
13. Lean Towards an Open Concept Kitchen
We know this is dependent on the layout of your establishment, but if you have the ability to have an open concept kitchen or adjust your set up to this trend at least partially, we highly suggest it. This will continue to become more popular since customers will have the visibility to see what is happening with their food in the kitchen. Open concept kitchens also show that you have confidence in your operations and cleaning practices.
PourMyBeer Tip for Takeout: Allow curbside pickup (include this button as an option on your website/app) and text guests when orders are ready to avoid a large group of people waiting in the entranceway.
Address Higher Expectancy for Cleanliness and Avoid Contamination
A big part of this will be very clear communication and updated training procedures with your staff. Especially during the first few months when things start going “back to normal,” you need to ensure that your staff understands how crucial it is for your business to adjust to a new level of cleanliness. This is now going to be expected across the board. You must show your guests that your business understands this.
14. Display Disinfecting & Sanitation Efforts
Customers will expect your staff members to clean everything, so it is important that you encourage and show sanitization. Your staff should try to strategically clean at certain times so your customers can see the cleaning practices your restaurant has in place. Make sure your staff members are sanitizing (with restaurant-grade sanitizer) every table and each chair after guests leave.
15. Pay Extra Attention to Sanitizing Sensitive Areas
Pay extra attention to door handles, menus, and places that are regularly touched by several customers. You should also clean your bar or restaurant’s bathrooms more frequently. We suggest creating a timetable to be posted on the bathroom door that shows how often they are cleaned. It is suggested to clean your bar or restaurant’s bathroom a minimum of four times a day.
16. Install Foot Pulls
Install foot pulls at the bottom of your public restrooms. Customers will be able to avoid opening the door with their hands and instead use their feet.
17. Adjust Your Snack Station/Salad Bar Setup
If your bar or restaurant has any snack stations or salad bars, they should not be accessible to customers. Since Covid-19 is an airborne virus, it is important to remove any food or snack items that are put out for anyone to grab.
18. Upgrade Your Glassware
If your budget allows, we suggest using stein glasses to cover the liquid in the glass while it is carried and served by the staff.
Craftsmen originally created the German Stein glasses during the era of the Black Plague to keep flies out. We think this might just be the perfect time for them to come back into the spotlight.
However, a cheaper alternative would be to use single-use, disposable cups that have lids. Although it is not as environmentally friendly, this is a great option to consider as the chances of contamination are highly reduced.
19. Cover Food Served to the Guests
When serving food to customers, you should have covers for your dishes (both plates and bowls) for their journey from the kitchen to the table.
20. Avoid Reusable Pens
Ideally, order (in bulk) one-time use pens with your marketing (logo, name, and slogan if you have one) on it that customers can take home with them. This will help boost your branding so you stay on the top of your customer’s minds. You can also sanitize pens after each use and have one pen holder for clean pens and one for dirty pens.
21. Use Plastic See-Through Dividers
This might be seen as a pretty drastic measure for some, but if you would like to reduce the amount of contact allowing small droplets (known as aerosols) to travel between your staff members and guests, you can use plastic see-through dividers.
22. Opt For Individual Wrapping
Just like with your straws, all condiments at the table and bar should be in individual packaging to reduce the spread of germs. Although it may seem like an excessive waste of plastic or paper wrap, it is crucial during the early stages of reopening to implement practices allowing you to limit the spread as much as possible.
Adjust Your Restaurant Capacity and SetUp to Promote Social Distancing
With social distancing practices still in effect, your restaurant should not open at full capacity. Limit and reduce the number of customers inside to the percentage put in place by your specific state.
23. Staff Member Monitoring Your Capacity
Someone on your team should monitor the number of people entering to keep everyone inside at a safe distance apart.
24. Reduce Seating in the Bar Area
In order to properly practice social distancing, have every other seat in your bar area blocked off to keep patrons further away from one another.
25. Separate Bar Area for Ordering Only
The bar should have a separate section for ordering only (no seats). This way the customers who want to order another drink (or food item), can avoid having to lean over someone else. You should have a sign to let customers know this section is available.
26. Reorganize Your Table Setup
Consider reorganizing the table setup inside your restaurant to comply with the six-foot rule. Close off every other table, but keep the tables there as a blockage. This is a safer way to ensure that guests from other tables are not walking too close to one another. You should also think about reducing the number of people per table. Currently, some restaurants abroad are limited to 4 people per table with 6-feet in between each table.
PourMyBeer Tip: If your tables are not easy to move around or don’t have the ability to adjust to the needs of various group sizes and setups, consider buying a few tables that are convertible and easy to move around and adjust.
27. Separate Entrance and Exit Doors
If your establishment’s setup allows this, have separate doors for the entrance and exit as this will limit the traffic flow and possible cross-contamination.
28. Try to Negotiate with Your Landlord
Not applicable for those who own their business, but having to reduce capacity will significantly impact income for those who have to pay a lease. If you have to reduce the patron’s capacity in your bar or restaurant, you are most likely not going to see the same sales. Try to get ahead of this by clearly communicating with your landlord about the possibility of reducing your rent.
29. Embrace Reservations
With limited capacity, you want to make sure that there are still guests coming in and also make sure that those who are coming in don’t have to wait too long for their tables; thus, if you have not done so yet, implement booking tools to stagger customer flow, such as OpenTable. Additionally, you may want to charge a fee for a missed reservation as it could be taking a spot away from customers who otherwise would have shown up.
30. Put a Virtual Spin on Your Events
If you won’t be able to have the same number of guests attending your Comedy Nights, Weekly Trivia, or Live Music due to limited capacity measures, try to organize these online to help you get more exposure in front of a new audience.
Changes for Self-Pour Businesses
Self-pour businesses will have to make adjustments to their operations just as any other businesses in the hospitality industry, but the good news is that displaying sanitation and practicing social distancing at self-pour establishments is more easily manageable than at a traditional bar.
Check out how Beasts and Brews, one of our awesome customers in Colorado Springs, is being proactive by taking precautions to keep their customers safe, including adding a glove and tissue station to their beer wall!
The recommendations in this section are primarily applicable to self-pour establishments; however, we encourage everyone to take a look at the following tips, as they may spark some ideas that could be applied even to businesses that aren’t self-pour!
31. Use Traditional Taps
Instead of using nice customized tap handles that are more difficult to clean and disinfect, use traditional tap handles. These are much easier to sanitize and will keep your customers safe!
32. Add a Tissue, Wet Wipes or Glove Station
You can add a combination of two or even all three stations at your beverage wall area and encourage customers to utilize it by providing signage or having a staff member (ideally your beer ambassador) mention that.
33. Have a Staff Member Dedicated to Your Beverage Wall’s Sanitization
Besides cleaning, they can also encourage social distancing and ensure the wall is safe for patrons to use. This staff member should be responsible for wiping down the taps and the screens as often as possible (doing this visibly in front of your patrons will put them at ease).
PourMyBeer TIP: You can have some extra fun with that and have them wear a shirt that says “Sanitation Expert”, “Sanitation Police” or something along those lines. This should increase the potential for user-generated content and give your establishment more exposure in the light you want to be seen in, which is persistent with cleanliness.
34. Staff Member Dedicated to Beer Wall Attendance
We encourage you to do this at all times, not just right now, but under these circumstances, this is more important than ever. This staff member can serve as a beer (or drink) ambassador not only educating your guests on the beverages offered, but also be available to pour drinks for customers who don’t want to touch the tap handles or don’t want to bother grabbing reusable gloves to serve themselves.
35. Far-UVC Lights
A study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, suggests that far-UVC lights could have a significant impact on the spread of Covid-19. Far-UVC lights are safe for human exposure and they kill viruses and bacteria. You can install these UVC lights right above your self-pour taps by mounting a strip lite above the taps.
36. Have a Visible Drink Menu
Ideally, this should be placed right above the beverage wall so the patrons can choose what drinks and from which tap they want to pour before standing up and getting into the action.
PourMyBeer Tip: Many of you already utilize our integration with Untappd (the biggest beer database on the market), but for those of you who do not, you can either contact us to get you a discount for starting with Untappd or you can manually work around this by purchasing a whiteboard or chalkboard. However, you might not want to rotate the beers too often so you don’t have to update the board during hours of operation and block customers from pouring.
37. Limit the Number of Patrons at the Beverage Wall
Use signage limiting the number of people at the beverage wall at the same time or make sure they are spaced out properly. We recommend using signage similar to the photo on the right. For other options or for any of the signage provided in this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org!
38. Implement Line Flow
Add signage signaling what direction the patrons should go, in order to avoid getting in the way of one another and breaking the rules of social distancing.
39. Explain the Rinser Function or Block It Off
Sometimes patrons can confuse this as a place to wash their already used glass. However, we recommend preventing this by adding signage that indicates otherwise.
40. Use Graphics Encouraging Use of a New Glass
Every time a patron is sampling a drink or pouring their next round, they should use a clean glass.
41. Adjust Check-In Area
In order to obey social distancing, mark the floor in your check-in area with white chalk or something similar to indicate where patrons should be standing to respect each other’s personal space.
Reopening Checklist for Bars and Restaurants
Reopening your bar, restaurant, or taproom is usually a difficult and demanding task. With all that is happening in the world, businesses in the hospitality industry have several new expectations to follow. We have created a checklist for you to use when reopening your establishment that will ensure you don’t forget anything!
DOWNLOAD OUR SIMPLE-TO-FOLLOW CHECKLIST BELOW!
And, if you need tips on how to turn your draft system on and off, check out our tips. Here you will find easy-to-follow steps for hibernating and awakening your draft system during these unprecedented times.
Changes in Dining Experience
Now that we’ve discussed several on-site, operational changes your business can make to keep both your customers and staff safe, let’s talk about some ways to implement safety throughout the dining experience.
At the Table
While we may have never really thought about it prior to the outbreak of Coronavirus, there are several ways to spread germs at the table. This means it is more important than ever before to reduce the number of touchpoints between the staff and the customer and even items at the table that previous customers could have touched.
42. Prepare Your Table Properly
Each table should have:
- Hand sanitizer for guests to use prior to eating their food.
- Preferably, napkins should be in a container where the guest is only touching each napkin individually.
- Silverware should be brought to the table in a cup or mug to avoid cross-contamination.
43. Offer to Clear Dishes Later
Once your customers are finished eating, avoid clearing the plates from the table unless necessary. Ideally, offer this option to your guests when you are serving their food and if they agree, wait until your guests leave to clear as a way to reduce points of contact.
PourMyBeer TIP: Like at the self-pour wall, you can implement spacing rules with tables as well. Mark off certain tables or sections of tables as temporarily off-limits to ensure customers are sitting at least 6-feet apart from one another.
44. Allow Guests to Pack Their Leftovers
If guests want to take any unfinished food-to-go, allow them to pack it themselves (if they prefer).
Time to Get Creative
There are many ways to implement creativity into your restaurant during COVID-19. Here are just a few ideas that will bring a little bit of happiness and a breath of fresh air to you and your customers:
45. Shift to Consuming Outside
Create a “Pickup Window,” whether for beverages or food, or even both. With the warmer months here, there will be a rise of people wanting to eat and drink outside. Due to open space, guests are going to feel safer sitting outside rather than inside. If you don’t have your own patio yet, try to secure an outside area for your diners or drinkers if possible (this can even be in your establishments parking lot).
PourMyBeer TIP: Have fun with its name and call it a “Thirsty Window”, “Hungry Window” or come up with something unique and tailored to fit with your business’ personality.
Or, consider a self-pour mobile unit. Mobile units give you the ability to serve customers where the party is! With 3 screens and 6 taps, having a kegerator outside gives guests the opportunity to pour their own drinks while still enjoying the summer days and nights.
46. Plastic Tents
Install plastic tents over your outdoor seating section. This will keep guests dry in case of inclement weather and you, as an operator, can keep your doors open to keep sales flowing.
47. Covered and Heated Outdoor Dining
With the winter months approaching, keeping your guests warm, and creating a welcoming atmosphere are two very important things to consider. To create a more permanent and less temporary feel than with plastic tents, build an all-over covering around your outdoor dining area. You can get more creative with it and use bubbles or greenhouses. You can provide guests with the option to book a spot in your bubbles or greenhouses as part of your online reservation software. Many restaurants with these kinds of structures require a minimum number of guests to be seated and money to be spent in order to reserve a spot.
To make these structures even cozier, add heating and offer blankets to your guests. This will enhance their overall experience and they’ll be sure to come back!
To learn more about how to prepare your restaurant for the winter during the pandemic, check out our 21 tips here.
48. Offer Warm Specialty Cocktails
Create a special cocktail menu for the chilly winter months with warm drinks to keep guests hands and bellies warm. Think boozy hot chocolate, hot toddies, or make your own new and inventive hot cocktails! Guests will appreciate that you’re doing everything you can to try and keep them warm. They’ll likely post these cocktails on social media, which will give you great exposure online and help spread the word about your special offerings.
PourMyBeer Tip: Serve your hot cocktails in branded mugs or glassware and give guests the option to purchase them after finishing their drinks so they can take them home to use again!
49. Fun Customer Order Form
Want to make ordering a bit more exciting for your customers? Create a fun sheet where customers can write down what they want to order. By giving customers this form, it reduces the points of contact that you would typically encounter when ordering. The customer can simply just pass the staff their filled out paper.
50. Give Your Adult Customers Creative Freedom
If you want to take the previous idea to another level, have your adult customers create their own cocktails by giving them a “Create-Your-Own Cocktail” paper menu. The customer can circle different types of liquor, juices/soda, and garnishes that your bar offers to make a one-of-a-kind drink. Go the extra mile and have them name their cocktail so it can be announced when the drink is brought to the table.
Checklist of Safety gUIDELINES FOR EMPLOYEES TO FOLLOW
Now that restaurants and bars are beginning to reopen, it’s more important than ever to keep both your guests and employees safe. Through CDC, WHO and FDA regulations, we’ve curated a list of guidelines to keep your employees safe when returning to work in a pandemic world. And, we even made these guidelines into a checklist for employees to use before their shifts everyday. As an employer, it’s crucial to keep your employees as safe as possible and this checklist will help you do just that.
DOWNLOAD OUR Employee guidelines CHECKLIST BELOW!
Either email this sheet to all employees or print multiple copies to hand to every employee before their shift. Have them grab a pen and start checking off the guidelines as they go.
Communicate Clearly with Your Customers
Whether through social media, email, or on-site marketing, communication is key in any relationship and this also holds true for your establishment and customers. During this time with many of us spending more time at home, social media is more important now than ever before as people have extra time on their hands to stay connected, which is why we encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.
Social media channels are free tools that allow you to keep your customers in the loop and, ultimately, drive more business to your establishment.
51. Create a Checklist Communicating Your Covid-19 Strategy
Above, we have shared many tips you can implement. Choose a few of your liking, that make the most sense for your establishment, and start communicating those with your network. You should update your business’ website, send out a newsletter, or make a traditional leaflet to communicate the changes your bar or restaurant has made.
52. Provide Regular Updates
This is where email newsletters will become the handiest, but social media will work as well. Show how your business is handling everything and lead by example. Make sure that you continue to announce the changes you are making so your customers feel safe coming to your restaurant.
53. Open Your Door to Online Business
Your website is an online door to your business. For that reason, it should clearly communicate that you are taking all the necessary steps to keep your guests and employees safe. Also, make sure to promote your specials, branded merchandise, gift cards, and anything else that can bring in additional revenue.
54. Increase Awareness About Your Delivery and Takeout Options
Make sure your takeout and delivery methods are posted not only on your website and social media channels for more exposure but also around your establishment so it is visible to returning diners. This is particularly important for businesses that did not previously offer delivery and takeout before the outbreak. Learn more about how delivery and takeout can boost your sales here.
Here When You Need Us
Things are going to be different and you should not expect that your place will get as busy as it normally was on last year’s Friday or Saturday nights, but if you adjust accordingly to the changed expectations of consumers and modify your environment properly, you can still make the most of it and get back to business. And, if you’re looking to stay up to date, check out our post on the latest bar and restaurant trends of 2020.
Hopefully, you will find some of our tips helpful in your new COVID business strategy. Make sure to stay tuned and watch what is happening in the world around you.
Eventually, this “new normal” will become a norm, but now it is in our hands to go out there and create it. So go on, embrace the new environment, and don’t forget to have some fun while in the process. We hope that some of our tips above will help you with just that.
Stay Safe & Healthy!
If you liked our tips, please don’t forget to share them with your friends who can also benefit from these!
And if you are a consumer looking for ways to support your local businesses during this time, here are several ways to help.
Join the Self-pour Revolution!
For more resources and information on Coronavirus from the National Restaurant Association – i.e. what your specific state requires of you – click here.
*The recommendations above have been written to the best of our knowledge after interviewing our customers and conducting research from reputable sources, such as the CDC, WHO and FDA. We advise you to visit their websites to stay up to date on the latest guidelines.*