PHASE II COVID-19: REOPENING RESTAURANTS FOR INDOOR DINING
Updated: Jul 21
Certified Bar / Restaurant Interior Designer Agni Kyprianou (NCIDQ), Gives Practical Advice for Connecticut’s Restaurant Owners
Let’s face it. It’s a matter of trust!
The public is tired of being stuck at home for months during this pandemic. They are eager to come out, meet with friends and family members and have positive dining experiences. However, although the desire is there, people will be nervous, skeptical and afraid to dine at public places and especially indoors. It will come down to which few restaurants in their area they will trust to visit. As the various phases of reopening roll out, the more steps you can take from the list below, the higher chances you will have at the word spreading that your restaurant is a “safe” place to dine. The suggestions below are not only to ensure safety, but to gain your customers’ trust. The point is to go above and beyond the minimum guidelines. Your customers will take notice! Please refer to the National Restaurant Association for a comprehensive list for COVID-19 safety guidelines by visiting https://restaurant.org/covid19
Social Media and Technology
New Protocols: Post on your website and other social media your new COVID-19 protocols. The more people know about what you are doing to keep them safe the more confident they will feel to dine at your restaurant. This will also prepare them for what to expect when they visit for the first time
Reservations: Update your social media to inform your customers that during busy dining times it will be best to make reservations ahead of time instead of just showing up. This will help to avoid people crowding outside waiting for a table. Remember, waiting inside is not permitted under Phase II
Menu: Post your menu at an easy-to-find place on your website and other social media. Make sure you update it with new items and daily specials. When time comes to order, instead of using menus, encourage your customers to look up the menu on their cell phone. By doing this you will save money on single-use paper menus or the time and effort to keep sanitizing the reusable ones
The Bill: Use technology to your advantage for getting paid. Bill books, receipts and signatures are an archaic way of doing business. Maybe you can text the bill to a customer’s phone. They can pay electronically. You can email them the receipt. Older customers may want to do things the old fashion way, but there is definitely a new shift towards hands-free transactions and this is the time to jump on it, at least with younger customers!
Managing Wait Time
If people arrive during a busy time and have no reservations, encourage them to either wait outside or in their car. Don't forget to mark social distancing areas outside so people are reminded to keep their distance.
Also, remember to mark waiting areas for order pick-up and outside restrooms with social distancing reminders
Social Distancing - Make it Attractive
Everyone knows we need to space parties by a minimum distance of six feet. Did you know however that if you have dividers you can sit people closer? The catch is the dividers must be non-porous and easy to sanitize. They must begin at table height, which is usually about 30 inches from the floor, and be taller than seated customers. Plexiglass is the fast, easy and cheap solution. It does though make your space look too utilitarian and takes away from the aesthetic.
Consider using decorative dividers. Although they have a higher cost, these dividers can become a part of your restaurant's aesthetic and can stay way past the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come. You can easily sanitize by wiping them down just like you would for tables and chairs
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Wouldn't you feel more comfortable if your waiter upon greeting you explained that each employee has his/her temperature taken prior to starting their shift everyday, or every table and chairs are sanitized between parties? Have your waiter explain your restaurant's protocols to your clients. It will make them feel more comfortable dining at your establishment and they will tell their friends too. Remember, have only one server per table for better contact tracing
Here is another transparency tip. Once a table and chairs are sanitized, put a small sign on the table indicating so for the next party. Letting your customers know their table has been recently sanitized puts them more at ease
Also, considering placing a hand sanitizer at each table. You can use this as an opportunity to add interest to your tables by selecting designs which fit the image of your establishment. They can be modern, hands-free futuristic or with colorful fun designs. Your clients will be so much more at ease knowing you are providing an extra step to help keep them safe
Other Dining Tips
Instead of wrapping the utensils in napkins, consider putting them in nice-looking pouches or containers that can be easily washed or sanitized. Maybe your restaurant's name can be printed on them
Another idea is to use a single-use paper silverware holder. You can have the day's menu specials printed on it
Paths of Travel - Get Creative
Mark travel directions on the floor and make sure your staff follows them. Don’t use boring arrows. Think of directional signs as a design element and have fun with them
Although it is best to have a separate entry and exit, this is not possible in every restaurant. The next best thing is to make sure that during busy times there is a staff member at the entrance managing traffic by having only one party enter or exit at a time.
Don't forget the hand sanitizing stations. Try to get the ones that are hands free. Depending on the size of your restaurant you can decide how many and where to place them. The key area is at the restaurant's entrance. However, an additional hand sanitizer at the exit shows your customers you don’t only care about your employees’ health but theirs and their loved ones’ as well
We get it! These are very challenging times and you are trying to navigate your business in uncharted waters. What if we think of this though as an opportunity to improve our business and customer service? The truth is COVID-19 will change public dining and the way we design bars and restaurants the way 9/11 changed how we travel. Do you need a COVID-19 design consultation? Are you looking to make drastic interior design changes to your bar or dining areas? At APK Designs LLC we have been designing bars and restaurants since 2010 and we'd love to assist you in any capacity. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, look us up at www.apk-designs.com or click here for our hospitality portfolio. We'd love to hear from you!