How to Update Your Restaurant Equipment and Infrastructure in The Wake of Pandemic

It’s inevitable that post-COVID, your restaurant or bar will not be the same as it once was. From the physical spaces that house commercial kitchens to front-of-house dining rooms, facility operations are changing to match new environments and legal guidelines established in the wake of COVID-19.

As restaurants across the country move to reopen as stay-at-home orders lift, new considerations must be taken to adapt to changed customer expectations while adhering to changing regulations. With safety as a main concern for in-person businesses, consumers need to be assured that the establishments they visit are sanitary and up to code.

Furthermore, the changes that will be necessary in the coming months will be those that make restaurants a safer place for employees to work and a safer place for guests to dine in. Through protective barriers and shields to updated restaurant sanitization equipment, there are several ways to identify control points and keep your establishment as safe as possible.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the concept of the American restaurant. Whether you’re looking to open a new restaurant, re-open a temporarily closed location, or update your restaurant and check equipment safety, this resource can help you choose the right equipment for your restaurant or make critical changes to your infrastructure and standard operating procedures.

Changes to Infrastructure

There are many changes restaurant operators will need to make to both their back-of-house and front-of-house operations as a result of COVID-19 to maintain customer safety. Not only have customers’ expectations changed, but due to regulations, the hospitality industry must also make some serious changes and adjustments.

Restaurant kitchen equipment used to be predominantly determined based on the type of restaurant you ran (full-service, fine dining, quick service, fast-casual), the cuisine, and the size of your operation. As a restaurant owner, you’d determine the menu and then select commercial kitchen equipment based on your offerings. With the accelerated pivot to various off-premise dining options, this formula doesn’t work the same way.

Front-of-house dining rooms were designed to entice guests to participate in the overall experience of the restaurant. Ambiance, design, use of space, and aesthetics are traditionally the most critical components of FOH configurations. Today, restaurant operators must construct dining rooms in a way that meets both health and safety guidelines above all else.

There are several good ways to do this:

Delivery Stations

Repurpose an area of your kitchen for delivery purposes only. Create a space that will solely be used to prep and pack delivery orders. Organize the prep line with your POS used for deliveries and all packaging needed. You will need to make sure the station is appropriately equipped with cleaning supplies, and that delivery workers remain equipped when they go out for deliveries.

PourMyBeer integration with Toast POS

Repurpose an area of your kitchen for delivery purposes only. Create a space that will solely be used to prep and pack delivery orders. Organize the prep line with your POS used for deliveries and all packaging needed. You will need to make sure the station is appropriately equipped with cleaning supplies, and that delivery workers remain equipped when they go out for deliveries.

PourMyBeer integration with Toast POS

PourMyBeer Tip: Ensure that you are using high-quality, appropriately-sized packaging that can withstand delivery and carryout orders. No one wants to receive a delivery box that is falling apart due to the meal’s heat, its juicy content, or similar.

Warming Stations for Curbside Pickup

  • Take a look at your current system for fulfilling curbside pickup orders. Would the experience for customers and employees alike improve or benefit from a more permanent infrastructure change? Consider building permanent kiosks with built-in warming stations to improve the quality of the food as well as the experience.

PourMyBeer Tip: If you are looking for a faster and less permanent but effective solution, there are many heat containing storage boxes in which you could keep the order until it is ready to go on its delivery journey. 

Reconfigure front-of-house dining rooms

As outlined by the CDC, restaurants and bars must configure their on-premise dining rooms to account for six feet social distancing rules, ensuring to mark tables and stalls that are not in use. Make sure your dining rooms are enforcing social distancing guidelines dictated by your state and local governments. This can be done most easily by simply blocking off every other table or even closing off certain areas to ensure no groups of customers are ever less than six-feet apart from each other.

social distancing signs at PourMyBeer location

Redesign parking lots for hybrid on-premises dining experiences

Take a fresh look at your parking lot layouts and identify ways to make use of this space. Invest in large outdoor tents to expand your usable dining area. Install new methods for traffic control to streamline your carryout service; this can be done, among other ways, by assigning multiple staff members to proactively service customers right when they arrive.

PourMyBeer Tip: Get creative with your entire infrastructure footprint and the traffic flow in and out of your establishment to create the best possible experience for your guests as well as the safest possible environment for both your employees and patrons alike.

Establish a separate area for ordering only

If your restaurant has a bar area, cordon off a section for ordering only. Remove all bar seating from the area so guests don’t have to come into contact with other guests positioned at the bar. Make it clear to your customers that this section is in use and outline the ways in which it should be utilized.

PourMyBeer Tip: To make social distancing easier on customers, place stickers on the ground at six-foot intervals to indicate where customers should be standing relative to one another.

COVID floor signage
A customer ordering outside

PourMyBeer Tip: To make social distancing easier on customers, place stickers on the ground at six-foot intervals to indicate where customers should be standing relative to one another.

Looking for helpful tips on how to adapt to this constantly changing environment? Check out this article with tips on how to create your post-COVID strategy.

Cooking and Refrigeration Equipment

Purchase popular equipment

Whenever you’re looking to invest in a new piece of kitchen equipment for your restaurant, we lean on our best piece of advice: purchase popular equipment. There’s a reason you hear about the same pieces of equipment over and over again – popular pieces of equipment have strong reputations because they work.

When a particular model gets a consistent nod of approval from chefs, managers, and staff alike – pay attention. Investing in new equipment for your commercial kitchen is one of the most expensive aspects of opening a new restaurant or a bar.

Take a critical look at the need for specialized units

As budgets are tight and teams are running lean, you must be extra diligent when making purchasing decisions on highly specialized pieces of equipment. Whether you are looking to buy a specialty range or brick-oven pizza, take a close look at your current menu and determine whether or not you need this particular piece of equipment in order to execute all of your menu items effectively. 

Evaluate the need for additional refrigeration equipment

  • If your restaurants are pivoting to offer additional off-premises dining options like prepared meals, family meal kits, or grocery services, you may need additional refrigeration equipment to safely store these new product offerings. Install these types of refrigeration units behind the counter or in your kitchen and deliver the products directly to your customers, rather than encouraging self-service similar to a grocery store operation.

PourMyBeer Tip: For repair and maintenance of equipment, we recommend our partners at 86 Repairs. They are a subscription service specializing in restaurant equipment. They provide 24/7 troubleshooting support as well as repair service whenever needed. 

Getting Ready to Reopen?

We have created a simple-to-follow checklist for you to use when reopening your establishment that will ensure you don’t forget anything! 

DOWNLOAD REOPENING CHECKLIST BELOW!

Safety and Sanitization Equipment

While safety and sanitization have always been a priority for restaurant operators, it is now essential that customers can visibly see how safe the environment in which they are eating truly is.

Reducing the number of interactions between guests, or between employees and guests, is a critical aspect of safe social distancing. Moreover, frequent cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and equipment is crucial.

The recommendations for safety and sanitization needs will vary based on the type of restaurant you operate and your local requirements. That being said, here are some options available to you as you move to make your on-premises dining experience as safe as possible for your guests.

Safety shields and sneeze guards

Safety shields and sneeze guards can be used throughout your restaurant to protect your employees and your guests while promoting social distancing. Install safety shields on countertops or point of sale zones in your restaurant. Consider installing safety shields between tables in the dining room as well.

Install automatic doors

If the entrance to your restaurant and restaurant bathrooms have handles consider converting your manual doors to automatic doors. Automatic doors promote another hands-free experience for your customer in your restaurant.

Hands-free bathroom amenities

Upgrade your bathroom fixtures to touchless amenities. Install motion flush valves, contactless hand dryers, motion faucets, or pedal faucets.

PourMyBeer Tip: In these difficult times we find ourselves in, this goes much further than just trying to make your bathroom amenities touchless. Try to make popular points of contact within your establishment touchless to prevent the spread of germs.

Glove and Tissue Stations

If you can stock up on a good amount of gloves and tissues, you can place boxes/stations of either or both at critical locations in your restaurant. This can be at tables, in the bathroom, or any other communal areas you may have. These are particularly important to have for self-serve establishments, which we will go into more detail about below.

PourMyBeer covid-19 resource

self-serve stations

We are likely to see many types of communal spaces in restaurants eliminated as a result of COVID-19. This will likely include salad bars, buffets, shared condiments, and utensil stations that encourage guests to touch items that have already been touched by other guests without proper sanitization between uses. 

One of the key guidelines for reopening, is the removal of these items from your dining room and requiring employees to issue these items directly to your guests. Update your standard operating procedures to clearly outline employee policies, such as offering disposable plates and utensils upon request.

However, when it comes to self-serve, there are opportunities to use this equipment to your advantage. If you can install self-service equipment that can be safely sanitized, you’re cutting down on interactions between employees and guests.

Traditional bars tend to get very crowded, and due to the nature of ordering drinks in this environment, social distancing becomes difficult or even impossible. With self-pour beverage walls, each drink has its separate tap and can be accessed by customers at their discretion whenever they like.

This significantly cuts down on crowding, and enables multiple customers to serve themselves quickly and efficiently, and all while respecting social distancing rules. 

If you are curious to learn more about self-pour as a possible solution, learn about it here or contact us as cheers@pourmybeer.com

Now, before we wrap this up, since PourMyBeer magic only happens thanks to a proper draft system, we have a couple of recommendations here for you on the equipment side. Whether you use self-pour technology or a traditional bar set up, these two components are must-have of any draft system:

draft system equipment

(FOBs) are devices installed into a draft system that effectively ensure that foam is not poured into the customers’ glasses. When a given keg empties, the flow is stopped immediately. The line is still filled with beer, rather than becoming filled with foam.

no foam with PourMyBeer

Often referred to as On/Off Taps or Pass/Fail Taps, Trigger Taps are designed to be either always on or off, ensuring that a tap will never be partially open (a partially open tap causes liquid agitation and a guaranteed foamy beverage). Customers will pour the perfect beer every time. 

As the restaurant industry rebounds from the immediate impacts of COVID-19, we are inevitably going to see more movement towards safety, innovation, and simplicity. 

Menus will change and reduce in size to provide more consistent quality for consumption both on- and off-premises. In turn, this will reduce ingredients that are infrequently used, which will have an impact on storage and specialized equipment. 

Operators will continue to adopt the ‘do more with less’ mentality in all aspects of their business, including how they use their existing space and infrastructure to support their evolving operations. Also, sanitization and disinfection have become and will continue to be primary considerations for restaurants to keep customers safe in a post-pandemic world. 

With adjustments to operations and a greater emphasis on safety, the hospitality industry will be able to not only adapt, but also thrive, even with the significantly shifted paradigm of the modern American restaurant.

Questions? Contact us at cheers@pourmybeer com or (312) 416-9989!

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It’s inevitable that post-COVID, your restaurant or bar will not be the same as it once was. From the physical spaces that house commercial kitchens to front-of-house dining rooms, facility operations are changing to match new environments and legal guidelines established in the wake of COVID-19.

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