June 4, 2020
As restaurants reopen their doors to customers following COVID-19, one thing is front of mind: ‘uncertainty’:
- Will your customers feel safe enough to venture out for a meal?
- How can you plan labor to match unknown customer demand?
- What percentage of your employees will be able to return to work immediately?
- Can you effectively handle sudden availability changes due to COVID-19 cases or child care arrangements?
- Do you have a plan if a second wave of COVID-19 hits?
As a valued customer of OpenSimSim we want to do our best to give you some certainty in such an uncertain time. This guide contains our top tips for operating in a post COVID-19 world – and how to make the most of OpenSimSim as you do so.
Implement stringent health and safety processes
Social distancing, PPE, frequent hand washing: all have become synonymous with COVID-19, but there are numerous other strategies businesses can implement to further reduce the spread and risk to both employees and customers. (NB: We highly recommend reading this article from the CDC, which has excellent advice for restaurants and bars).
- Keep abreast of city, state and/or industry regulations. These may include requiring all employees to wear masks or limiting venue numbers based on physical restaurant size and/or business type.
- Update your health and safety policy specifically for COVID-19 so employees know what is expected of them. Are they expected to wear masks for the duration of their shift? Do they need to sanitize their hands after each shift break? Will their temperature be recorded at the start of each shift?
- Ensure sufficient supply of PPE, including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer (make hand sanitizer available to both employees and customers)
- Clean and disinfect shared objects after every use (e.g. menus, credit card terminals, napkin dispensers), and other frequently touched surfaces regularly.
- Capture customer contact details upon arrival. If a customer or employee is later diagnosed with COVID-19, this will enable you to trace who came in contact with the individual/s during their time at your restaurant. (Ensure information collection and storage aligns with relevant privacy requirements).
- Reduce or eliminate the use of shared customer objects. Examples:
- Revert to paper cups rather than keep cups for takeaway coffee
- Provide single use paper menus than can be discarded after use
- Stop providing reading material such as newspapers or magazines
- Replace shared condiment bottles with single use packets
- Similarly, look for ‘contactless’ hardware such as touch free hand dryers and automatic soap dispensers in restrooms
- Modify the layout of your restaurant to promote social distancing (see some creative examples here).
- Implement ‘sneeze guards’ at relevant service areas, such as payment points
- Display clear signage promoting social distancing habits, such as floor decals indicating where to stand or maximum venue capacity in the front window
Ways to improve restaurant safety with OpenSimSim:
- Implement touch-free shift clock-in/out via mobile time clocks to reduce the risk of spreading germs
- Set-up clock-in disclaimers (coming soon) for employees to answer when commencing a shift
- Set-up clock-out questions for employees to answer at shift completion
Prepare for changes to your workforce and schedule
What will your workforce look like tomorrow? Next week? Next month? For each business, this is different. Some staff may have been let go and won’t return. Some may have been furloughed. Some will return to changed working schedules, with less shifts. The key going forward: keep on top of who is available and have last minute replacements available for sick employees. Having access to this information in an employee scheduling tool allows you to quickly react if customer demands greatly differ from expectations.
- Make finding a replacement for sick employees easy by asking staff to maintain their availability and unavailability (so you know who is available to work and when) and enabling shift swaps.
- Rather than reducing headcount, consider sharing hours evenly amongst workers. This will allow you to ramp up quicker if demand requires.
- Stagger the start and end time of worker shifts to minimise staff congregating in common places, such as staff rooms.
- Review timings for deliveries or other non-customer facing activities – could deliveries be received earlier to minimise worker interactions? Can cocktails or desserts be pre-made, minimising staff required during the dinner service?
- Look at scheduling groups of employees for the same shifts – if one employee falls sick, this limits the number of employees exposed.
Ways to improve labor management with OpenSimSim:
- Prepare for increased worker absences by enabling shift swaps (either auto-approved or requiring manager approval)
- Ask employees to maintain their recurring availability (and unavailability)
- Create certifications, positions or time off to track who is sick, and ensure they can’t be scheduled for the length of isolation
- Ensure overtime rules are set-up in case some employees have to be utilised more than others
- Ensure managers have downloaded the mobile app to make quick changes to the schedule if necessary
- Check employee certifications are up-to-date, so you know who’s available as a fallback for roles requiring specialist skills (i.e. bartenders)
Ensure employees understand their responsibilities
Make your first day back a successful one by ensuring employees are trained and understand what is required of them well in advance.
- Communicate the new hygiene and safety practices they will be required to follow. Additionally, communicate any other business changes that have been implemented as a result of COVID-19. (Reservations only? No more self-service? No cash taken?) Consider communicating these via a virtual team meeting so everyone has the opportunity to ask questions, and even running a ‘test shift’ to ensure employees feel comfortable adhering to these new measures.
- Make all new OH&S material available online so it is accessible to all employees at any time.
- Provide virtual COVID-19 training before resuming shifts, and be clear on who must complete it and by when.
- If not already done, update your HR policy to cater for employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19:
- Will employees be paid?
- What is the policy for employees who must care for an sick family member?
- What clearance do they require to return to work?
- What are the requirements for notifying local authorities?
Ways to improve employee communication with OpenSimSim:
- Keep employees up-to-date with required hygiene practices and government regulations via in-app messaging, and track who has seen your posts to ensure they have been read
- Track which employees have completed required COVID-19 training using certifications management
Communicate and engage with customers
No one is quite certain how many customers to expect in their venue upon reopening. But give yourself the best chance of success by keeping communication lines open with customers.
- Use social media such as Facebook and Instagram to share your reopening date, revised opening hours, new hygiene policies or any other relevant information to keep your customers in the know about what they can expect when you reopen.
- Consider implementing a mandatory reservation system for all patrons. This gives customers certainty, avoids potential queues forming outside your venue, and offers you security of how many customers you can expect for each service (which will assist with labor management).
- With fewer patron numbers, look for creative ways to implement social distancing and provide a jovial atmosphere: could you play pumped-in background noise, as if the venue was at maximum capacity? Prop up mannequins or cardboard cut-outs on unused tables to make the room feel busier? We’ve even seen a Chinese restaurant who placed toy pandas on alternating stools!
With revenues reduced due to fewer opening hours and customer numbers, now is the time to look for ways to maximise your efficiency.
- Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘A manager’s hour saved is $21 earned’. Well … it might not have been that exactly – but time matters. Consider what new technology is available to help you with COVID and reduce costs – for example, OpenSimSim works with a company offering text ordering without taking any percentage. Those who innovate in hard times survive!
- Consider the infamous American Airlines olive. In 1980s, then head of American Airlines Robert Crandall calculated that by removing just one olive from every salad served to passengers the airline would save $100,000 a year. Providing napkins and straws on demand rather than self-service is an obvious way to reduce waste and cost.
- Incorporate the right technology into your business:
- Make sure your scheduling tool, POS and Payroll sync
- Keep track of your staff costs and schedule more efficiently with online employee scheduling solutions
- Use cloud based technologies to minimise IT overheads
- Ask your employees what they see. The people on the floor are best placed to know where the bottlenecks occur. With everyone switching to online ordering, it is important to be open to the feedback. At this time, we are all learners!
- Connect with your customers. Your average customer does not know that 3rd party delivery apps take a third of the check! Educate your customers about the difference between phone orders vs 3rd party deliveries. Advertise your pick-up process on social media and put signs in your windows. It’s time to take action!
Ways to maximise efficiency with OpenSimSim:
- Create schedule templates to reduce time to publish schedules
- Use the department budget to schedule staff according to budget
- Add a clock-out question to provides employees with an opportunity to provide feedback on areas for improvement
Prepare for a second wave
Consider your weaknesses should you be forced to close your doors a second time around and start planning for it now.
- Is your business completely dependent on a single aspect, like hot weather or college students? Look for ways to reduce this dependency, such as an ice-cream store selling hot coffee.
- Ask furloughed and laid off employees to keep their availability up-to-date, so you know who’s available as the situation progresses.
- If you have to switch back to a delivery or takeaway only model, tell your customers! (If you’re not already on social media, now is the time to do so). Clearly communicate opening hours and menu items available and encourage customers to continue supporting your business.
- Look for more alternative approaches to using your space – for example, some restaurants are hiring out their empty dining floors to small businesses or individuals to use as workspaces.
- (Re)Pivot your business model. In wave 1, most food and beverage outlets relied entirely on takeaway and utilising delivery outlets such as DoorDash and UberEats. If your business didn’t, investigate these options now. Consider less obvious options as well – could you sell coffee from a van parked in a local supermarket? Package your fresh bread and sell it for at-home consumption? Offer subscription boxes of baked goods by mail?
- Ask employees to maintain their availability (and unavailability)
Please keep in touch as your restaurant reopens – we’d love to hear how you’re operating or hear your best tips on surviving post pandemic.