Creating an effective restaurant reopening checklist

By David Hopkins, president of The Fifteen Group

The post-COVID-19 hospitality industry will be a whole new world. With government reopening plans in motion or on the horizon, restaurants across the country are scrambling to prepare their operations for dine-in service. Beyond reducing capacity and installing plexiglass between tables, there are many things to consider to ensure a smooth transition and strong relaunch. Checklists are essential to running a restaurant at any time, so covering all the bases with your reopening checklist will set your operation up for success.

A sanitized start

One of the most obvious first steps to reopening is an extensive sanitation of your space. It is also vital to ensure that you have enough stock of all of your cleaning supplies, such as chemicals, sanitizers, and cloths, so that the space can remain properly cleaned. Restaurants will also need to update their cleaning checklists for employees and cleaning staff to abide by, as increased sanitation measures will be enforced for the long-term.

Modernize your menu

Almost every restaurant will have to re-engineer their menu to some extent, to adapt to the post-COVID-19 model. We recommend reducing the size of your menu, at least initially, to focus on popular items. Redesigning your menu in a way that allows for the further cross-utilization of ingredients is always a part of a good overall strategy. Now with many restaurants operating with reduced staff numbers and dealing with an impacted food supply chain, streamlining your offerings will also allow for increased efficiency.

Your seating scope

Another thing that will have to be re-engineered is your floor plan. Ahead of reopening, ensure that you have considered how your restaurant will function with a lowered capacity and while respecting social distancing measures. Tables and chairs will have to be placed an adequate distance apart and an entry/exit strategy for guests will have to be determined, to maintain safe distances at all times.

Train your talent

These new changes will have to be effectively communicated to staff, in order to be implemented correctly. Plan to hold regular staff meetings and training sessions to keep them up to date on health and safety protocols, as well as new schedules to accommodate lowered capacity.

Get your message out

Communicating with your customers is also an important part of this equation. Everyone will feel some sense of hesitation with reopenings and new models, so it’s important to provide regular updates of the measures that your business is taking. Part of this will involve updating your website and social media strategy. Make sure that your website is updated with revised hours, menus, and any relevant information or changes. If you have made any changes to delivery options – such as switching to in-house delivery rather than third-party apps – these should be reflected online as well.

Stay social

Social media is one of the key places that people get information about restaurants in a normal situation, and even more so right now. It is vital that your messaging is considerate and well thought-out, with any relevant information included. While you don’t want your feed to only discuss the pandemic, you don’t want to gloss over it either. Ensure that you are keeping customers apprised of your offerings while giving updates on sanitation measures and safety protocol, to keep them assured and motivated to dine at your restaurant again.

While seemingly arduous, developing a detailed relaunch checklist for your restaurant will set you up for success. Like anything else in the foodservice industry, organization and attention to detail are needed for excellent customer experience. It is a new and unpredictable world out there – but care and planning will take your business the extra mile.

David Hopkins is president and founder of The Fifteen Group Inc., a leader in restaurant profit maximization.  With offices in Toronto and Vancouver, The Fifteen Group has helped over 1,000 restaurants achieve their profit goals. Visit for more information.

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