Reopening Your Restaurant After A Closure: A Checklist

April 21, 2021
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The summertime is widely seen as one of the busiest times of the year for hospitality venues, where people can socialise in long, light summer evenings and businesses can maximise covers and outdoor space. Much of the UK is looking forward to restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues reopening, but the period ahead holds many questions – not least regarding how venues can reopen and operate safely. 

Currently, hospitality businesses have the option to trade in outdoor spaces only, but it’s important that they implement covid-secure measures now and are ready to continue trading safely as soon as they can when customers are allowed back inside. This article will outline some of the measures businesses need to consider before they reopen, so that they can do so as safely as possible. 

When Can I Reopen After a Lockdown?

The guidance in this article follows the government guidelines for working safely. As we continue towards the summer, certain aspects of government advice may change. With this in mind, it is difficult to say for certain what expectations hospitality business owners, managers, workers or even customers, will have to meet. 

That said, 94% of people who have visited hospitality since July last year feel confident enough in safety measures to return, according to the Customer Sentiment Tracker from KAM and Feed it Back

We can say for certain that all measures you take must be done for the protection of others, and that your ultimate aim is to become a covid-secure workplace and prevent the spread of the virus. Only when it is safe to do so will you be able to reopen your restaurant doors and welcome diners back inside once again. 

What Do I Need to Consider When Reopening My Restaurant?

Legally, all employers have a duty to protect their workers from harm, and this includes taking steps to protect employees and others from coronavirus. Before you reopen, you should therefore complete a risk assessment of your business. To assess the risk, think about where it comes from in each stage of your operation. Think also about what measures you can implement to mitigate the risks and take steps to enforce these new procedures. Remember, each business is unique in which risks it has and there may be further considerations specific to your business that you need to think about and take responsibility for. 

At the end of this article we will provide you with a checklist to work through your own premises with, so that when you do reopen, you, your staff and your customers are confident you have taken steps to do so safely.

Personal Hygiene for Staff

The most practical way to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria is through effective and regular cleaning and sanitisation, and this is the same when it comes to combating COVID-19. Working in a restaurant, or similar operation, you should already have high personal hygiene standards in place, along with thorough staff training. Having good personal hygiene applies both in the kitchen and to front of house workers. It includes understanding and adopting an effective handwashing method, being fit for work, wearing appropriate clothing and having completed training to demonstrate competency in these areas. 

Everyone ought to be aware of the importance of handwashing by now, but you should reinforce the message with visual reminders in the workplace. Display posters near sinks in your venue to demonstrate to staff and customers how best to wash their hands, and remind them to do so often. When carrying out your risk assessment on your workplace, you may have identified areas where additional hand sanitisation is necessary but there is no access to sinks. In these places you may need to install hand sanitiser stations, again with posters to remind people to use them frequently. 

You can download our free posters on handwashing and hand sanitisation here

Similar to staff personal hygiene is the necessity that staff are completely well to be at work. As part of a new procedure, you may decide to provide them with regular COVID-19 testing kits, or ask them to complete a daily self-declaration of health.

The hospitality industry historically has a type of camaraderie that views sickness as a sign of weakness – where calling in sick is seen as ‘letting the team down’ and something to be avoided at all costs. It is essential you combat this archaic thought process as you aim to keep everyone safe and stop the spread of the virus. Asking staff to sign a declaration of health could use peer pressure in a positive way, to enforce the necessity of not coming to work if you are ill, have been exposed to the virus, or have had a positive test result. Staying away when necessary should be seen as the best thing possible for the whole team. 

Food Hygiene

Hospitality workers are no strangers to what good food hygiene is and how to achieve it in their workplaces. Since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, the guidance around how to ensure good food hygiene is largely nothing new, but the expectation on businesses to meet high standards has increased. 

It is important that any changes you make in your business are assessed and worked into your food hygiene procedures and HACCP plan. Such changes could include the production of different menu items as you run a reduced menu, or some dishes may have an additional critical control point, such as chilling or reheating food items. You may have had to change suppliers for some of your menu items, so be sure to check their covid-secure procedures as well as their food hygiene standards. All such measures need to be monitored and recorded for your due diligence. 

Create an Effective Cleaning Schedule

As you look to reopen, reassess the covid-secure measures you have in your business and make sure they are appropriate, and that they form a part of your daily and weekly checks. Before you reopen, you should complete a deep clean of your premises and thorough checks of your stock. Make sure this too is documented and act to remedy or improve any concerns you have. 

Your cleaning schedule should include more frequent cleaning of high contact points in your premises, such as taps and door handles. Ask your staff which areas they think are high contact too: this will help with buy in from staff when following these new cleaning procedures, and will make sure you haven’t missed anything. Areas and items you usually wouldn’t clean often, such as chairs, will need to have a more frequent cleaning regime to ensure they are safe for guests from one sitting to the next. 

Alongside your cleaning schedule, make sure staff are keeping a tidy work space and remove anything you don’t need to have from worksurfaces, such as that pot of pens gathering dust and stacks of old papers. Likewise, throw away paper menus after they’ve been used, or laminate your menus so that you can clean them after each use. The less things there are for people to touch, the less chances of contamination.

Restarting Catering Appliances

As many establishments have been shut for some time now, there is a real chance some of your equipment could be damaged if it wasn’t correctly ‘mothballed’ or shut down. As you prepare to reopen, make sure you check the warranty on your equipment and know who to call should you need equipment repairs. Don’t wait until the day before opening to turn everything on as you will no doubt encounter problems! Take a look at our countdown checklist as a guide to when you should be turning equipment on as you prepare to reopen. 

Once your catering equipment is up and running, you will need to conduct a deep clean before you can use it. Especially important is any systems you have that use water, as there could be a risk of legionella. Your water system should be flushed through and disinfected – you may need specialist help for this. You should also use this opportunity to check for signs of pest infestation and any damage to your appliances and systems. 

Once you are satisfied that your equipment is ready to go, check that you have updated commercial kitchen cleaning procedures. It should include cleaning the whole appliance, specifically handles, buttons, switches and other high contact points. Always follow manufacturers guidance on how to clean your appliances. 

Social Distancing Measures

The government guidance for England states social distancing should be 2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable. It is essential that you have robust measures in place to enforce social distancing in your business. All serving staff should be wearing a face covering, and customers should wear one as they move about the premises (unless they are exempt). Some ways of maintaining social distancing is to use screens between diners, providing table service only – even in bars and pubs – and encouraging contactless ordering and paying. There is also a huge increase in platforms and apps through which customers can order their food and drink remotely. 

If you have an online booking system, you may need to restrict time slots to space out arriving guests. You may operate a one way system inside to control the flow of guests and staff. You could also utilise different exits to different parts of your building. 

You should already have plenty of these measures in place. The key thing is continuing to reinforce the message and making sure your staff and customers are following the rules. Remember as well as customers, you will also need to enforce social distancing for staff, and this will be an issue for many premises where kitchens are small and tightly packed. Try to be smart about the work area – some kitchens have moveable equipment, so try and give each chef an individual workstation so they don’t share a workspace. Have them work back to back or side to side to reduce the face to face contact your chefs have with other team members. These positions can help keep your chefs separate and reduce the risk of them spreading COVID-19. 

Whichever steps you decide to implement to ensure social distancing, you should complete a run through with all your staff before opening up to the general public. This will allow you to iron out any issues and give your staff a chance to ask questions and better their understanding of new procedures.

Contactless Payments

In an effort to minimise physical interaction between staff and customers, it is a good idea to implement contactless payments wherever possible. If your restaurant is offering a click and collect service to diners, set up payments through your website. Likewise, if guests are using an app to order drinks, encourage payment through this.

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Our EHO Specialist Adds This About Cash

One of the benefits of the new notes are that they are waterproof! If your restaurant is handling cash, make sure customers place it in a bucket. Staff should wash the money and count it into the till. Any change required can come straight from the till, back to the customer.

Even before coronavirus, many establishments were moving towards cashless operation.

Free Restaurant Reopening Checklist

You should now have a good understanding of what reopening your restaurant involves. We’ve outlined some of the key steps you will need to pay particular attention to as your restaurant operates within the government framework for trading.

The results of your risk assessment will inform what changes you need to make in your restaurant. We have created a checklist, designed to help you work through the different areas of your business by putting the guidance outlined above, into one place. Remember, the most recent government guidance on how to work safely does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equality in the workplace. You must also work to uphold equality in the workplace – any new measures you impose cannot put any workers at a disadvantage. 

We have created two checklists for you, one is prefilled with examples of checks as discussed above, along with space for you to add further checks. The other is completely blank for you to fill in as relevant to your own setting. Both can be downloaded and filled in electronically, or printed and completed manually. These checklists will help you achieve a safer work environment. They will further provide a record of you having taken such steps as you strive to make your business covid-secure for your guests once again.

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