Restaurants Brace For A COVID-19 Winter

As temperatures drop across the country, restaurants are scrambling to come up with solutions that will bring patrons back safely. We’ve got a blueprint to help. 

Every industry has been affected by the coronavirus, but when it comes to who is hurting most, it’s tough to argue against restaurants as bearing the hardest burden. Nearly every month, the number of restaurants that have closed have jumped up, with one of the most recent reports finding over 100,000 shutting their doors. Those businesses are a vital part of our economy, with a forecasted value of $899 billion in 2020. Of course, that hasn’t happened. Instead, the industry will lose roughly $240 billion in sales, with over 3 million employees out of work permanently or in the long-term. 

Summer weather offered some reprieve due to outdoor seating, which helped businesses and patrons comply with state and local health guidelines that limited indoor capacity even after most states relaxed lockdown restrictions in May. Operating at 25% or 50% indoors was always going to be a struggle, but business owners invested heavily in outdoor seating with creative patios, open streets, and other innovative concepts. 

Now, those investments are nearing their shelf lives. While outdoor heaters may help buy some time, the cold reality is clear; outdoor seating isn’t feasible for much longer. That’s added a new time-crunch to rethink how to safely bring patrons indoors, especially in communities that are facing rising case numbers in the Midwest. 

The first investment needs to be the most effective, and that’s air purification technology. Installing HEPA and MERV filters to HVAC systems is a start, but to maintain normal operating efficiency, it takes an expert to install and adjust airflow. Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization is another crucial step to take, which has been proven to kill 99.4% of airborne viruses like COVID-19. 

Air purification is a start, but it’s no replacement for the advice of health experts. Creating social distance between tables and other seating is easier for locations with strict capacity regulations, but even where those rules are lax, it may be a better investment even for struggling establishments that need to build confidence in their diners. In addition to social distancing, strictly enforcing mask use when not seated and whenever patrons interact with staff can also reduce the risk of transmission. 

Surface cleaning and hand sanitizer should also be a built-in routine for staff and encouraged by patrons as well. Creating efficient systems to include a thorough disinfection regimen at every table can increase operating costs, causing many businesses to bring in more staff to help with table turnover. 

All of this matters, but what may matter just as much is effective communication. Putting your COVID-19 procedures on digital assets like websites, social media, as well as in print on posters and on the menu helps to give customers the peace of mind they need to relax and come back confidently. 

For more on federal restaurant guidelines, we recommend checking out the CDC’s industry-specific regulations and best practices

If you’re a restaurant owner or manager, we want to know what procedures or measures have been the most effective to keep customers safe and confident! Let us know and we’ll share the best on the blog.