Across the country, restaurants have begun welcoming guests back into their restaurants either through outside dining options or limited service dining rooms. One of the keys to success when entering these uncharted waters is having a sound and adaptable game plan for safety. Here are some areas to consider when creating your reopening playbook and preparing for the new post-COVID-19 normal.

First Impressions
A guest's first impression with the restaurant and creating a feeling of safety and cleanliness matters now more than ever. 

  • Clean and organize everything a guest is able to see (e.g., uniforms, hair, nails, and visible surfaces). 
  • Maintain positive body language when greeting guests at the front door and the table.
  • Smile under the mask when greeting guests. While the covering will prevent guests from seeing a welcoming smile, the rest of your face and eyes will show that it is there. 
  • Consider other nonverbal welcoming gestures when guests arrive, like a small wave, a beckoning motion, or a slight bow. 
  • Speak slower and louder to compensate for the mask. 

Restaurant Cleanliness
Take steps to ensure that the restaurant is continually cleaned and sanitized.

  • Schedule sanitizing of restrooms and all shared high-traffic surfaces every 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, including light switches, doorknobs, tables, chairs, handles, countertops, desks, restrooms, electronics and pens.
  • Clean and sanitize tabletops, chairs, check presenters, and table touch areas between reservations. 
  • Use disposable or digital menus or signage to list menu items.
  • Implement a contactless payment option if possible. 
  • Use a receipt tray or counter for exchanging cash or cards with customers to avoid hand-to-hand contact. 

Guest Safety
Putting additional procedures in place to keep your guests safe will also help ensure the safety of your staff. 

  • Make hand sanitizers and wipes readily available.
  • Provide options for guests to store their masks during their meal. 
  • Add COVID-19 signage throughout the restaurant, both indoors and outside.
  • Keep a log of all guests who dined (e.g., name, email, phone number, date, and time of visit), so that in the event there is a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the restaurant, you can contact your guests. 
  • Invest in contactless thermometers to scan guests upon arrival.
  • Reserve the right to ask any guest displaying symptoms of the coronavirus or not following your procedures to leave. 

Staff Well-being
Updating your standard operating procedures (SOP) to account for the new COVID-19 environment will protect your staff physically, and put them more at ease mentally. 

  • Schedule mandatory temperature checks for your staff upon arrival.
  • Ban physical contact (i.e., no hugs, handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, etc.).
  • Train employees on the importance and proper technique of handwashing.
  • Make masks available and mandatory for all staff. 
  • Send home any employee with a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • If an employee is at high-risk for severe illness, consider assigning them duties that minimize their contact with customers and other employees.
  • Consider splitting your teams in two and schedule so that one group does not interact with the other. The A/B teams will limit the impact if someone does become ill.
  • Have deliveries left outside whenever possible. 

During these uncertain times, communication is critical, even if you aren't currently open. Staying in touch with your team, even if they are currently furloughed, can ease the uncertainty, help you plan when you do reopen for business, and communicate with customers. 

  • Talk with your team before opening to ensure your team understands possible exposure risks.
  • Host regularly scheduled, virtual check-ins and/or town hall meetings with your team while closed (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, etc.).
  • Have a designated manager to handle calls and emails from employees and customers. 
  • Immediately notify local health officials, staff, and customers (if possible) of any possible case of COVID-19 while maintaining the confidentiality that is consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other applicable federal and state privacy laws.


Click here for a list of resources from industry experts, various government agencies as well as businesses that have already begun dabbling in reopening.