Facing Desperation, Restaurant Owners Rely on New Industry Resources

Jessica Elliott

Jessica Elliott

Jessica combines 24 years in public-facing roles with the latest research to deliver insights into technology, operations, and marketing. She helps business owners and private practitioners develop successful systems to reach and retain clients while strengthening their internal communications.

You’re used to running a tight ship and operating with slim margins. Yet, few of us had business continuity plans designed for months of shutdowns followed by precarious reopenings. As you update your strategy, conflicting information presents a barrier and guidance changes as fast as new data arrives, which makes decision-making difficult. 

You have many questions, from PPP loan forgiveness to keeping people safe. Fortunately, professionals across the industry moved swiftly to document, organize, and share information. Although many restaurateurs feel alone in their troubles, many folks come through to offer support and help independent operators succeed. 

Waiter with a mask and gloves and customer at the table of an outdoor bar, cafe or restaurant, reopening after quarantine

10 industry resources for restaurant owners

Restaurant ownership is challenging during the best of times, but reopening during a pandemic is unlike anything we’ve ever faced before. You want to get your business open. But, a healthy crew and patrons is essential to long-term success. 

Many organizations have turned their platforms into resource centers. Others provide comprehensive blueprints that help restaurant owners every step of the way. You can even head to SpillTheDish to find state-specific relief. Simply search the database for owner and employee funding, crowdfunding campaigns, or the latest government programs. 

1. The Buyers Edge Platform Operator Support Center

Buyers Edge Platform is a group purchasing network. To address the needs of independent and multi-unit operations, they developed free tools like checklists, webinars, articles, and videos. The Operator Support Center covers a variety of topics, including: 

  • Rehiring, training, labor reopening
  • Safety and sanitation
  • Sanitation checklist for employees and guests
  • Reducing costs
  • Marketing

Restaurant owners can ask a question using a form on the site. It’s also easy to stay connected with the latest information by participating in their public Facebook or LinkedIn groups. 

2. Safety First: Serving Food and Protecting People During Covid-19 guide

The James Beard Foundation, in partnership with the Aspen Institute, Off Their Plate, and the World Central Kitchen, developed a free, comprehensive 47-page reopening blueprint. This top-notch guide stands out due to the enormous effort put into fact-checking information via Sam Dooley, an infection-control specialist with 32 years of experience with the CDC. 

In an Eater article, Katherine Miller writes, “The guide takes an epidemiologist’s approach to operations.” Each chapter delivers straightforward guidelines that any restaurant owner will find easy to incorporate throughout the upcoming weeks and months. You’ll find sections under each topic dedicated to organization and actions for employees and management. Subjects include:

  • Worker arrival processes
  • Food prep
  • Takeout and packaging
  • PPE use
  • Ventilation and dishwashing systems
  • Accepting supplies

3. SOP: COVID-19 Playbook

Across the globe, many restaurant owners face concerns voiced by those in the United States. To meet this challenge, Syed Asim Hussain, co-founder of the Black Sheep Restaurant hospitality group in Hong Kong, released his standard opening procedures for opening. 

Although it’s tailored to Hong Kong rules, the COVID-19 Playbook is easy-to-read and customize to your operations. You’ll find example templates for communications and guidance that covers a range of areas. Syed Asim Hussain says, “If you react quickly, sincerely and transparently, that is half the battle won already.”

4. National Restaurant Association: Reopening Guidance

The National Restaurant Association partnered with experts from the Food and Drug Administration, public health officials, the Conference for Food Protection, and many other industry representatives to help restaurants evaluate safety practices. You’ll find actionable tips and suggestions for moving forward during the pandemic on topics such as:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing 
  • Monitoring employee health and hygiene
  • Social distancing

5. The Brewers Association Coronavirus Resource Center

Brewers face unique challenges when it comes to reopening during a pandemic. This resource hub lists dozens of links to answer questions on important topics related to restaurants and COVID-19. The Brewers Association provides content customized for brewers over subjects such as:

  • Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
  • On-premise establishment information
  • Legislative and SBA loan data
  • Business continuation and communications
  • Manufacturing information

You’ll appreciate the Best Practices in Preparation for Reopening After Extended Draught, a CBC Online Seminar on Crafting a Contactless Hospitality Program, and a  Checklist for Reopening Guide. 

6. National Restaurant Consultants: Reopening guidance

If you’re looking for smart business tactics, then the National Restaurant Consultants provides excellent insights. The guide says, “Reopening will require you to put some underlying strategies down on paper to create a new road map for success.” 

Along with staff and guest health information, this guide dives into your business plan, marketing, consumer preferences, and so much more. This is a must-have free playbook if you’re ready to dig into the operations and marketing aspects of reopening. 

7. U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Best practices 

The FDA web page, Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic, links restaurant owners to information across government departments. You’ll find updated information on forthcoming guidance from agencies including:

  • Employee personal hygiene
  • Contracted workers and employee health management
  • Foodservice establishment or retail food store operation management
  • Food pick-up and delivery guidance

8. Coronavirus Emergency Loan Guide and Checklist

Still, have questions about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)? This four-page document created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives a great visual overview of loan information. Furthermore, the Treasury Department answers many frequently asked questions in a PDF. With a glance, you can:

  • Determine eligibility
  • Learn what documents lenders need
  • Discover borrowing amounts
  • Get loan forgiveness details

9. Ecolab Resources

From coronavirus readiness kits to handwashing videos, Ecolab offers guidance for those in the food and hospitality industry. You’ll find information tailored to food service workers, hospitality staff, and quick-service restaurants. 

Foodservice operators can join a webinar on the best practices for resuming operations or take advantage of downloadable assets. Ecolab also hosts a foodservice portal. This web page provides training resources for staff and reopening checklists for restaurant executives and managers.  

10. Streetsense Pandemic Relaunch Toolkit for Restaurants and Bars

Streetsense offers a 43-page download for restaurants and bars along with a COVID-19 response hub. This comprehensive guide helps restaurateurs “understand, plan, and mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Topics covered include:

  • Capital management
  • Relaunch resources
  • Operation adjustments
  • Guest engagement

Get reopening details from your state, city, or country 

States vary in their guidance and requirements for opening. It’s crucial to review industry resources while keeping state recommendations in mind. Some states, like Washington, require restaurants to keep contact information for all customers. Others, like California, suggest screening guests for symptoms. If your area hasn’t provided details yet, then look over offerings from other states to see what may be in store for yours:

How to plan and implement your restaurant reopening

The sheer revenue loss is a shock to your system. You, like many restaurant owners, are anxious to reopen and start serving guests again. With differing guidelines across states and counties, when and how you open depends on several location-specific factors. 

The best plans are those that help you make sound and fast decisions. Even if you reopen this week, there is no crystal ball showing us what the fall or winter months might look like. By outlining and inserting best practices for COVID-19 into each of your policies, processes, and procedures, you’ll be equipped to handle upcoming challenges. 

If you feel overwhelmed, or have a question, then consider joining an online private community. Many options exist on Facebook. Some, like Hospitality Industry Alliance | COVID-19, apply to restaurant owners and workers. Others, such as Coronavirus Ohio Restaurant Worker Resources, provide state-specific info. Both groups have thousands of members. 

Move forward safely with data-backed decisions

Although the health of your staff and guests is a top priority, perception matters as well. In Restaurant Business, Paul Mangiamele, CEO of Legendary Restaurant Brands, says, “It’s not just about putting chairs further apart. It’s that we’re being safe and that our guests see that we’re safe.”

Create your reopening plan based on the best available data. Then, use every means to communicate a consistent message to your teams and customers. It won’t be easy to reopen during a pandemic, but it’s possible and, in many cases, essential.

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