By Megan Prevost
Over the past two years, sustaining a profitable restaurant has proven difficult. Even some of the best, well-off local shops closed because of the changes in the restaurant industry. With coronavirus restrictions lifting and more people going out to eat, 2022 might be the perfect time for reopening your restaurant.
Many business owners may experience some hesitation when it comes to reopening, especially while COVID-19 continues to change. The recent raft of closures in Ontario and Quebec illustrates how unstable the industry has been in recent times. However, with indoor dining now back on the table in Ontario and a good prognosis for how the next few weeks and months will pan out, 2022 could be a great year to start fresh.
Plan and prepare
Before reopening, you should take some time to think about your restaurant and how it fits into the new world of dining. Are you going to serve the same food and drink that you did previously or are you planning on crafting an entirely new menu? During this time, you should also consider any preparations or changes you’ll need to make to accommodate safety during this time. Research your local guidelines and adhere to them to avoid closure and ensure safety for your guests and employees.
Set a deadline for reopening and work toward it. Get back on social media and advertise your new opening date. By getting the word out there, your old customers will be able to find you again!
Consider the risk
Of course, there’s always a significant risk when it comes to opening a business, especially these days. You can gauge this risk by surveying your audience. Are your previous customers interested in your restaurant reopening? Are other restaurants in the area like yours finding success?
Because pandemic conditions have largely improved since 2020 and early 2021, it’s possible to find similar success as you did before the pandemic started.
There’s more to consider than just business risk, though. With the pandemic still going and variants of COVID-19 popping up, you’ll need a plan to reduce the risk of infection at your restaurant.
For many restaurant owners, this means:
- Using contactless menus
- Performing consistent health checks on employees
- Providing hand sanitizer
- Requiring or recommending masks
Rethink your menus
Over the past two years, menus have changed drastically. If you’ve been hopping around to different restaurants, you’ve likely noticed the insurgence of QR codes and contactless menus, which prevent the spread of germs through touch while also lessening work for your staff. If you opt to use print menus, you should consider using one-time throwaway menus or laminated menus that can be cleaned between guests.
The best option, however, is both. Offering both QR code menus and print menus allows customers to choose whatever they’re most comfortable with. Both QR code menus and print menus can be designed by using a menu design tool.
During this time, you should also consider upgrading your menu options. Work with local food distributors (they’re struggling too!) and rework your offerings to better serve your customers. Downsizing your menu to focus on higher-margin, better-selling items will put less of a strain on your staff and suppliers as well. Keeping your menu fresh will not only entice new customers but excite old ones!
Keep guests in the loop
If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s the importance of communication. Local businesses and restaurants owe their guests a certain level of transparency when it comes to COVID-19. Your customers may want to know exactly what you’re doing as a business to keep them safe. To do this easily, create a flyer or poster with your regulations listed on it and hang it in a window or other easily accessible area.
This signage should list the exact measures you’re taking as a restaurant to ensure the safety of your staff and customers. It’s also important to stay active on social media and provide updates if any of your staff members get sick. This way, you can inform visitors who may need to get tested.
Being open, honest, and communicative with your customers will not only help keep people safe and COVID-free, but people will also trust your business and be more likely to eat there amidst the continuing pandemic.
Work on employee retention
Many restaurants struggle with employee retention these days. With high turnover, you’ll be left with workers that aren’t fully trained. With untrained employees, service may suffer. Many factors lead to high turnover rates, such as low pay, poor working conditions, bad hours, and more. To ensure that employee retention stays high, make sure that you provide your staff with a solid working environment.
If you’re unsure what that means, talk to your employees and see what their complaints are. By listening to their complaints and implementing them, employee retention may increase. Having happy, consistent staff will only lead to better service for your guests and therefore a more successful business overall.
Reopen your restaurant in 2022
With these tips in mind, it’s time to reopen your restaurant in the new year! That process can be daunting, but there are many restaurants out there continuing to find success amidst the chaos.
As long as you plan out your reopening strategy, stick to the recommended guidelines, and treat your employees fairly, you’ll be on your way to a successful 2022.
Megan Prevost is a marketing content writer for MustHaveMenus. Her work has appeared in App Institute, Bar Business, Modern Restaurant Management, Small Business Currents, PMQ, FSR, The Daily Fandom, and FanSided.