Across the nation, foodservice establishments have been forced to shutter due to coronavirus concerns.

Some are operating at limited capacity, offering takeout and delivery options or pantry baskets or sales of alcoholic beverages. Whatever reality is true for your business, there is still work that can be done to protect and improve your restaurant for whatever the new reality will be once it’s safe to open to the public again.

Stay Safe and Protect Staff

Your first priority should be to protect your restaurant--both the physical property, furnishings, and inventory as well as the staff.

Take this time to apply for support, whether it’s in the form of a disaster loan, local grants, or other options that can help offset costs and keep the rent paid during these uncertain times. Call your insurance agent and accountant and see what information and advice they can share with you.

This is also a good opportunity to secure your property. Evaluate opportunities for break-in and theft, and address them as necessary. That may mean papering windows, changing locks, installing cameras or investing in a full-blown security system.

Learn your rights as a tenant and an employer, and familiarize yourself with the rights of your workers in your state. You can be a valuable resource to your employees, many of whom may be struggling with what steps they can take in terms of unemployment or other options. Try to be available to staff who may be furloughed or laid off as they navigate these waters, and they will remember and be grateful for your support when it’s time to come back.

If you’ve run a fundraising campaign or been the recipient of fundraisers during this time, take a moment to say thank you to the community that’s supported you, and distribute the funds among your staff in a transparent and ethical manner.

Improve Your Menu

While your doors are closed, you have an opportunity to address any issues with your menu, including sourcing and pricing concerns. Keep in mind that when you reopen, you may want to start with a significantly pared down menu. Evaluate your menu offerings for items with the highest profitability and start there. If you have data from previous years, this is a good time to review it to see what items sell well and which can be removed from your menu.

In addition to foodservice workers, farmers are finding this period challenging, as many have lost the lion’s share of their restaurant accounts. Reach out to farmers to see what they’ll be growing and raising this season and beyond, and plan accordingly, making commitments to buy as you are able.

Build Resources

Just because you can’t lead staff meetings in person right now doesn’t mean you can’t still lead your team. Look for resources that will allow your staff to improve their skills from a distance, including articles and videos about food, beverages, and service. Read, read, read, and share what you’re reading with your staff.

Take a hard look at your own website. Consider working with a digital team (who can work remotely with ease) to improve navigation or Seach Engine Optimization (SEO). Explore tools like Canva, Later, and Squarespace to see how you may be able to use them for your marketing needs. Use the online tutorials and play around with the tools. Schedule photographers who can come in the restaurant and snap photos for marketing materials and social media during the downtime. Work with designers to create cool new merch, and then add it to your online store so that customers can support you with merch purchases while you’re closed.

Get Clean and Organized

In the restaurant industry, the adage, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean” rings as a well-loved cliché, but it’s never been truer than right now: You and your staff have an abundance of time. Use it to beautify the restaurant. Roll up your sleeves and deep clean, repair, and paint, paying staff to assist. Look for areas that may soon need repair, and consider scheduling work crews, if possible, to make the repairs before you reopen so that when you do, you’re putting your best foot forward.

This is also a great time to declutter and reorganize, especially in the office. If you have paper records, dating back years, consider going digital and upload to the cloud so that you can eliminate the stacks of paper in your office. Go through your files on your computer and get rid of what you don’t need while organizing the rest according to a system that works for you and your team. Organize your photos by season or occasion to make finding them for social media easier. Go through your e-newsletter list and cull it so that you are communicating with the right audience.

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