The dining industry has returned to some semblance of normalcy, but COVID variants are presenting a new wave of challenges.

It’s important to double down on safety and cleanliness protocols to keep doors open and ensure guests feel comfortable dining at your establishment. Consider these tips to help navigate these familiar yet rocky seas.

Mask/Vaccine Policies

Each state is different with regard to protocols for masks, vaccines, and other health and food safety guidelines. And still, many of the decisions have been left up to restaurant owners and their employees to determine and relay to their guests. It can get uncomfortable, so make sure all your policies surrounding masks and vaccines are clear outside of your establishment with signage, on your website, and on all of your social channels. Many restaurants have adopted a mask policy, regardless of vaccination status, or have enacted vaccine policies for employees. Some are requiring diners to show proof of vaccination. While still a highly debated issue, especially with the labor shortage, new policies may be something restaurants will need to consider.

Outdoor Dining

If you have an outdoor patio, sidewalk tables, or turned part of your parking lot into a makeshift patio, it’s a great way to attract diners who want that extra layer of protection. Maintaining socially distanced tables and a limited number of seats both inside and outside of the restaurant may be considered to keep guests safe, comfortable, and happy. Investing in all-weather tables, canopies, and portable heaters can keep business running smoothly and patios open longer.

Off-Premise Dining

Delivery and takeout reigned supreme at the height of the pandemic, and they’re still a top choice for people who want to support their local eateries, but still don’t feel comfortable venturing out. Make sure your delivery services are visible on your website, social channels, and even in digital ads.

Seals and stickers for to-go items signifying that food has not been opened provide an extra safety measure to put your customers at ease when they order delivery or takeout. We also saw many restaurants put in makeshift takeout windows during the pandemic for guests to place orders. Not only has that streamlined the process and kept customers safe, many establishments have seen a rise in foot traffic as well.

Streamline Menus

It’s tempting to go nuts and experiment with all kinds of creative dishes and specials, but scaling back to a smaller, minimalist menu can save costs, reduce waste, and reduce labor in the kitchen. Keep track of what’s popular and what’s never or rarely being ordered. Highlight your highest-margin and top-selling menu items. Dishes also need to travel well for delivery and takeout, so keep that in mind when changing your menu.

Tee Up Tech

Continuing to offer touchless payment options, digital menus, apps, or iPads for ordering reduces interactions, making it easier to keep both your employees and diners safe. Consider using online reservation systems such as Tables Ready, Tabit, or other One Source Solution Partners. This allows diners to book on the go, choose where’d they like to sit, and include any specific accommodations they may need. Not only that, restaurants can manage seating, waitlists, and even contact tracing if an issue arises.

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