Reopening your business after Lockdown:

As we rapidly approach 3 months since the Government announced the lock-down of the Hospitality Industry, there is perhaps a glimmer of hope that we might be able to resume business on 4th July.

With that in mind, we thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts and ideas as you contemplate re-opening.

Our best guess is that trade levels are unlikely to return to Pre-Covid levels for some time. In which case, if you already have a home delivery, drive-through or take-away service, then you might do well to consider retaining that as an ongoing part of your business. And if you haven’t, perhaps you should give consideration to some form of grab-and-go offering to broaden the ways in which your customers can engage with you and continue to enjoy their favourite meals from your establishment.

Many people are likely to remain on furlough potentially until the end of October. Many others have discovered they can work effectively from home. With social distancing likely to be a feature of our lives at least in the short-term, inevitably peak occupancy levels (on Friday and Saturday evenings) for most venues are going to be significantly reduced. But , given these changes in work patterns, there seems to be an opportunity to persuade consumers to eat-out at different times of day and throughout the week, so we would suggest you consider dining options to suit different parts of the day such as brunch, afternoon tea or incentives for early-bird sittings. For those people on Furlough there is little distinction between a Saturday and a Tuesday so offering incentives to get customers in to your establishments on different days may be really beneficial.  The need to keep people separated is a priority but we can achieve this by spreading dining out across the week and by offering discrete “sittings” with time to clean-down and sanitise between sittings.

The evidence of the past few weeks with the scenes at Durdle Door and on Bournemouth Beach, and the long queues at those establishments who have opened take-away offerings, suggests that the public enjoy eating out of home and are still keen to do so. The key thing will be to ensure that you can do so safely. It will be important for you as food operators to overtly demonstrate how you are ensuring food safety and looking after the welfare of your customers and staff.

For some of you, your premises have been closed throughout the lock-down and we thought it might be helpful to share a few insights we have gained to help you re-open successfully. We can’t promise that the list is exhaustive but we hope it is helpful.

Menu

Consider simplifying your offering

  • Eliminate slow-selling/unpopular dishes
  • Eliminate dishes which make low GP
  • Reduce the amount of choice on the menu
  • Eliminate or alter dishes to reduce allergens
  • Simplify dishes to reduce skill level and time for preparation
  • Consider take-away, drive though or home delivery options
  • Look at sales opportunities across the whole day
  • Offer incentives for traditionally quiet times of day and days of the week.
  • Consider whether items can be bought-in ready prepared
  • Re-use ingredients creatively across a number of dishes on the menu

Staff

Although your staff may not physically be on your premises, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s still important to look after their physical and mental wellbeing.

  • Maintain regular contact with furloughed staff
  • Keep furloughed staff appraised of changes to processes and procedures
  • Make sure all staff know how to access support services such as healthcare or counselling if and when required, whether this is provided by you or free support available from charitable organisations.

Even whilst staff are furloughed, they can still complete online training courses

Kitchen Team

  • Update and share kitchen rota’s
  • Ensure all staff have sufficient clean chef’s whites, aprons, hats and PPE (Masks, Visors, Gloves) and stock-up if required.
  • Ensure staff are trained in proper use of PPE and have sufficient to change regularly.
  • Consider regular breaks to give relief from wearing PPE
  • Remind staff of social distancing protocols
  • Document and train staff on new cleaning & food safety procedures
  • Create and document new cleaning procedures
  • Top up supplies of cleaning chemicals and disposables.
  • Train all staff on correct technique for hand-washing
  • Ensure any new team members have been appropriately trained (COSSH, basic food hygiene)
  • Ensure allergen guides are readily available for team members
  • Brief front-of-house staff on menu changes and allergens

Kitchen Deep Clean/Start-up

In many cases your kitchens will have been moth-balled for several months. Here are some ideas of what needs to be done to get things back up and running safely. Check any new requirements post lock-down with EHO.  Please read the Chemical Safety Data Sheets when using chemical cleaning products.

  • Run all cold water taps for 5-10mins to clear any static water from pipes
  • Test the boiler and ensure kitchen has hot water
  • Check PAT testing is up to date.
  • Drain fryers, clean and replace oil
  • Clean and degrease extraction system
  • Deep clean all equipment (ovens, grills, microwaves, bins, surfaces, floors, back-splashes)
  • Top-up hand soap, disposable hand towels and sanitiser in kitchens and staff bathrooms.
  • Check fridges and freezers for out of code or short-coded food.
  • Clean and sanitise chillers.
  • Check dry store for short-dated or out of date items
  • Keep a record of any food waste.
  • Place food orders early and consider getting stock in a few days before you re-open. Supply chains will be very busy during re-opening and we want things to get off to a smooth start.
  • Undertake a full stock check before re-start
  • Deep clean dry store
  • Ensure you have sufficient food containers and food safety/date labels
  • Check pest control. If there is any evidence of pest activity contact your pest controller. Clean and test insectocutors.
  • Ensure waste oil has been removed from site and waste oil collection contract is in place
  • Check temperatures of fridges and freezers
  • Check kitchen extraction is fully working
  • Check gas and test all ovens and burners
  • Test run dish and glass-washers. Top up with dishwash detergent, water softener and rinse aid – check stocks of all cleaning chemicals
  • Test and run coffee machines and hot water boilers
  • Ensure fire extinguishers are all in date and serviced
  • Test fire alarms and refresh training on fire evacuation procedures
  • Ensure new cleaning procedures are clearly displayed detailing what should be cleaned, by whom, and how often.
  • Check kitchen printers are working and topped up with paper and ink.
  • Test links to front-of-house EPOS system

Front of House

When re-opening first takes place, it will likely come at a time when some degree of social distancing is still in place. Create a new table layout, which will reduce your number of covers you can offer, but will allow you to meet the required social distancing. Prepare for possible changes in social distancing rules (ie. What happens if social distancing is reduced from 2m to 1m). COMMUNICATE with your customers to let them know the steps you have taken to ensure their safety.

Have a member of staff at the front door to give a warm, friendly welcome to your customers, helping to explain any new procedures / menus etc. and enforce any social distancing measures that may be in place.

  • Test links from EPOS system to kitchen
  • Clean all cutlery and crockery
  • Empty and re-fresh salt & pepper cellars (unless switching to disposable sachets)
  • Check condiments and sauces are clean and in date. Consider switching to single use sachets, plastic or single serve glass.
  • Review safe processes for serving condiments at table.
  • Test coffee machines, hot water boilers and beer fridges
  • Clean and flush beer lines
  • Ensure you have clarity on menu changes and full list of allergens for any menu changes readily available for FOH staff
  • If possible, consider getting customers to use online menus or place their orders using an app. Any menu’s should be cleanable or disposable.
  • Consider using paper napkins rather than linen. Check stocks of napkins/tableware.
  • Install self-sanitation stations for customers at various locations around the restaurant or have portable stations that can be taken to tables allowing customers to clean themselves if they choose.
  • Install hand sanitiser stations at all entrances and exits from the main restaurant area.
  • Review customer-contact plan and ensure all staff are familiar with new processes.
  • Deep clean all public areas. Use anti-viral cleaner/sanitiser on all touch/contact surfaces.
  • Consider table service and restricting access to the bar.
  • Deploy social distancing signage

Be prepared to be versatile and agile

Implement every aspect of your planning, but keep it under constant review, as there’s likely to be a steady shift in attitude and behaviours whilst things shake down and we shape our new normal. Analyse and respond to consumer behaviour and a fluctuating environment and don’t be afraid to go back to core basics in order to survive.