10 Steps to Keep Your Restaurant in Business During the Coronavirus Pandemic

10 Steps to Keep Your Restaurant in Business During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Having a business continuity plan is one of the best ways to prepare for disasters of all kinds. Even though the disasters businesses prepare for are usually fires, floods, storms or even a cyberattack, pandemics like coronavirus (COVID-19) now have to become part of that conversation.

What is a Restaurant Business Continuity Plan?

In its simplest form, a business continuity plan is a process for maintaining productivity and recover if there is a disaster. As mentioned earlier, the usual disasters are fires, floods, storms and other catastrophes. However, the coronavirus or another pandemic will now have to be part of the equation.

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Based on the possible threats, a business continuity plan implements procedures to address the specific issues proactively. The goal is to get your business up and running again. By preparing for each scenario with a plan of action your employees will know what to do.

With that in mind, the National Restaurant Association has come up with a basic 10-step business continuity plan for the coronavirus or any other pandemic.

Before the Disaster

Although it is late for the coronavirus, it is best to have a recovery plan beforehand. Not only that but make sure to go through the plan every quarter or at a minimum twice per year.

Going through the plan ensures everyone knows what their role is in the recovery process. This practice runs also identifies any former/new employees so they will know what their role is. The more everyone practices their role the easier it will be to carry it out when you face a disaster.

The 10-Steps Restaurants Can Take Now

The steps in this recovery plan are specifically designed for this pandemic. However, it can also be applied for any future outbreak.

The thing to remember is to have a business continuity plan beforehand so you can implement it as soon as it hits. The following list is just a partial and general to-do-list for a restaurant. Creating a solid business continuity plan requires time and a thorough analysis of your business. It is only then you can create the right plan for your business.

1: Check Government and Industry Pandemic Protocols

There are many moving parts when it comes to getting prepared for a pandemic. As a restaurant owner, you should look at the National Restaurant Association’s page on COVID-19. This will help you address problems that specifically affect your industry.

Beyond that, find out what your state and local pandemic protocols are. Contact your local health department and/or emergency service to find out more information. This page provides all the contact information for all 50 states including the District of Columbia.

2: Communicate Openly with Your Employees

Open communication should always be part of a company’s operation. But in the case of a pandemic, it is critically important.

The first step is to get a reliable source of information for the pandemic and the CDC is as good as it gets. The National Restaurant Association also has a solid page for all things COVID-19. With this information, educate your workforce so they can separate fact from fiction. At the same time let them know what you are doing to protect them, their families and the place of business.

The next step is to identify operational issues such as sick and family leave, identifying essential employees, and updating contact info and systems. After you find the answers, figure out what changes you have to make during the crisis. When you do, communicate your plan clearly to all of your employees.

3: Create a Safe Working Environment

Safety takes on added scrutiny when it comes to a virus. Because cleanliness on the microbial level is key, provide the necessary sanitizing supplies to keep your employees, surfaces and equipment clean. This also requires adequate air circulation.

Part of keeping your business clean also means reminding your employees to report any symptoms as soon as possible. This includes fever, coughing and/or shortness of breath.

4: Identify Essential Employees and Functions

You could say everyone is essential in a restaurant, however, if you have to run a barebones operation identify who these employees are.

Create a list of all the employees and functions that are critical to run your business and keep it operational. This will ensure your restaurant can stay open even during a crisis. But with all the rules states are passing, you will have to make changes. This is because most people are ordering food for pick up or delivery.

Find out about the changes you need to make to essentially turn your restaurant into a takeout.

5: Prepare for Absenteeism

There will undoubtedly be a lot of absenteeism. Before you get caught off-guard, start building in training redundancy for it.

Not only will you have to account for employees that might get the virus, but also employees whose family members are sick. Other reasons for your employees not showing up will include taking care of their kids, quarantines, and no transportation.

6: Identify Local Operational Rules

Foodservice is one of the key segments which will stay open during the pandemic. Find out who the decision-makers are for food services and keep an up to date contact list.

Whether you are serving the local population, first responders, hospitals or other organizations there will be many logistic issues. From serving to transportation, you have to know what you can and can not do.

7: Let People Work Remotely

Almost all of a restaurant’s operations require employees to be present. However, with today’s digital ecosystem, you can allow some of your employees to work from home.

Managing your social media page, maintaining your website and even taking orders may be carried out remotely. Find out what your options are and what you learn now can help you in the future as your business grows.

8: Minimize Your Losses

Until you figure out what exactly is going on, you will be losing business. There is no way around it. But in the meantime, you can minimize your losses by adopting some new operational measures.

According to the National Restaurant Association, this includes:

  • Modifying menus to respond to customer concerns or item shortages.
  • Increasing “takeout” options, including delivery and curbside delivery.
  • Determining ways and establishing safety protocols to increase delivery capacity.
  • Increasing remote ordering capacity and infrastructure support, online and by phone.

They also have a great article titled, “Pivoting to off-premises” with some great tips on how to focus on your takeout and drive-thru business. Take a look at it here.

9: Identify Any Pain Points

It might seem everything is a pain point at this stage, but identifying them will help you find solutions. Try to use a system for rating these pain points. Assign the points according to key business functions so you can determine where you need to use your resources and in what order.

Again, this current pandemic is forcing restaurant owners to adapt on the fly. So, make sure to keep your options open and put out fires you can manage to put out without depleting your resources.

10: Keep Your Business Continuity Plan Going

While you might be doing the business continuity plan for the coronavirus on the fly, let it be a learning experience. If you had a plan in place but you are adapting your hurricane plan for the coronavirus, make sure to note all the problems you have encountered. So, when the pandemic subsides, and it will, you can come up with the best pandemic business continuity plan for your business.

However, if you didn’t have a plan and you are just implementing some of the tools, recognize the benefits of having a business continuity plan. See how it would’ve improved your ability to cope and get your business operational quicker.

SCORE has some great resources for how to prepare your business for a disaster here.

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Michael Guta Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.

2 Reactions
  1. A continuity plan is essential to the success of a business. It will allow you to know what to do in case the inevitable happens.

  2. We support small business owners by sharing knowledge-based solutions and tips to cope with difficulties. Next helpful live webinar (free event) will be on 30/04/2020. Free access –


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