By Rick Braa, CHAE

Q: Restaurants are now reopening, what are the major adjustments I need to implement outside of the government-mandated requirements?

A: Restaurants and bars have been limited to takeout or delivery since the public has been ordered to shelter in place. Re-opening at full capacity will take some time depending on metrics tracked at the state government level. Opening at 50% capacity will provide challenges and opportunity. In the words of Intel legend Andy Grove:

“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis, good companies survive them, great companies are improved by them.”

Go one step further and transform your business. There is no choice, life-as-usual has been forever altered. While sanitation will remain paramount, nimbleness, adaptability and speed of service will be of utmost importance. There are many factors in transforming your business:

Let technology put the guest in charge of their experience: Single-use menus are required. Rather than balancing printing, distribution and disposal of paper menus, use technology such as QR codes or app ordering to allow guests to read menus on smart devices. QR codes can be placed on walls, posts, booths, tables under or in acrylic, etc. providing easily accessible menus that can be changed with little effort. Order at the table with these point of sale apps is available, allowing guests to fire orders directly to the kitchen or bar. QR code apps and some POS systems allow guests to pay at the table directly without contact with a server. Some POS systems print a QR code on the guest check that can be scanned by a smart device and the guest payment can be closed to the POS directly without server interaction. Contactless payment has proven to increase table turns and tips along with it.

Streamline menu size to the most popular items that have quick service times: Opening at 50% is punitive, doubling table turns is critical. Servers spending time at the table explaining a lengthy, complicated menu is a thing of the past. Easy to understand food and beverage will assist the guest in a speedy choice and the server minimizing time taking/placing the order. The kitchen will benefit from a small and efficient menu allowing faster ticket times. Stay in tune with the market. Some commodities are in short supply, so change menus as rapidly as needed to adapt to changes in the business and dining landscape. Be careful to keep the menu streamlined.

Use reservations or call ahead for every party: To ensure proper physical distancing, reservations or no wait lines are critical. Both can be accomplished either over the phone or via app. An all-reservation/call-ahead systems allows the restaurant to plan the flow of guest traffic and staff appropriately. This shifts the restaurant to planning and optimizing shifts rather than reacting. Data kills waste.

Continue to develop pickup and delivery business: Before the crisis approximately 3% of office workers were working from home — now that number is over 60%. Restaurants in the suburbs have benefited by providing meal kits that are easily assembled to create a delicious meals or hot and ready meals for families of any size with wonderful beverages. Once upon a time cake was made from scratch. Now most cakes from scratch are made from a boxed mix. Just like a cake mix, meal kits are here to stay. The takeout and delivery business during shelter in place forced business evolution from dine in to dine wherever. Consumers won’t return to dine-in predominately in the near term, they enjoy restaurant food/beverage with home assembly, to-go or delivery how and when they want it.

Time to lean, time to clean: This motto has been touted from the beginning of the restaurant business. Now is a time for visually stunning cleanliness. Every crewmember must be hypersensitive to facility and personal hygiene. Identify where guests touch or gather frequently including restrooms, entrances and entering and exiting tables. Ensure guests see a fanatical, maniacal culture of cleanliness. Clean restaurants outperform average restaurants.

The viral crisis has been hard on everyone. Commit to being nimble and adaptable. Emerge, evolve, transform. Now is the time for restaurants to restore our communities, shape a bright future, and resume our seat at the table regardless of where that is. n

For a more information on improving profitability and driving performance, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the co-founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.