COVID-19 Operating Manual for Restaurants

Everything you need to know to get your restaurant ready to reopen

Social distancing restrictions are starting to ease up, and that means you need to take all necessary precautions to get your restaurant up and running again. This goes beyond cleaning and sanitizing—you may need to update your certifications, train employees, update your menus, rearrange your dining areas, and much more.

Populations are ready to get back to their normal lives. A recent survey shows that 33% of respondents said that they’d feel comfortable dining out ASAP, and 24% said they would in the next couple of months.

As you start to make the transition, here is your guide to opening back up in the time of COVID-19.

Ensuring your restaurant is compliant

Guidelines for reopening your restaurant will vary based on your state. First and foremost, make sure you read all local requirements and implement the necessary strategies into your new business plan. This could include customer distancing requirements, whether you have to require diners wear masks, and more.

Here are other areas of focus to ensuring you’re fully compliant upon reopening.

Certification updates

Make sure your staff is certified. This is something that can be overlooked when you’re focusing on other COVID-19 related concerns. The FDA requires that there be someone in charge onsite during open hours who has their food manager certification. This certification must be up to date before you reopen.

Also make sure that each member of your team has an up-to-date food handler’s certification. Some organizations are offering free online food safety training courses to comply with social distancing requirements.

Get a plan in place with vendors

Communicating with your vendors is another step you need to take as you’re getting ready to reopen your restaurant. Some food vendors may not have their usual ingredients or stock, so you may have to adjust your orders. Their delivery schedules also may need to change, so try to be flexible as everyone learns how to move forward together.

Make updates to menus, hours, or staff shifts as necessary

If there are limited ingredients, you may need to update your menus based on what you can offer. While you’re at it, you may also want to consider printing single-use disposable menus for the time being. Single-use menus are a hygienic way to make quick changes to your menu as necessary. It’s important to remember that your menu is an extension of your brand, so use a professional printer if you can, and make sure your branding is on point.

If you also have to limit the number of patrons that can be on the premises at a given time, you’ll need to remove tables and chairs to meet distancing standards. The dining room likely won’t be at full capacity, so you may not need as many staff members on the clock at a given time.

Set up a procedure for monitoring employee health

The FDA recommends that you tell all employees to do the following upon their return to work:

  • Report any COVID-19 symptoms to their manager immediately
  • Stay home if they feel sick
  • Notify their supervisor if they have been exposed to COVID-19
  • Self-monitor regularly by taking their temperature

It’s also important that you pre-screen workers by taking their temperature and asking them if they have any symptoms before they’re allowed to work.

All these details and guidelines for reopening need to be recorded, and there should be at least one person on-site who can implement them. Pay attention to changing regulations from your officials so that you can continue to update your policies as needed.

Welcome patrons with the right guidelines in place

Once you’re ready to reopen your restaurant, following all guidelines and putting best practices in place, it’s time to let your customers know.

Announce that you’ll be reopening on your channels and distribute signage throughout the community. Provide all details on your website, on social media, email, and any other marketing avenues. Let them know when you’ll be open, your new hours, what they need to know about their visit, and new menus, if applicable.

While it’s important to share this information professionally, showing customers you’re taking precautions seriously, try to keep things light. Remember, it’s been a trying few months, and many people are wary as they begin to venture out.

Let your patrons know you’re there for them during the pandemic, and that you can’t wait to serve them again. You can also offer special promotions to get people through your doors.

Clearly communicate any changes to procedures within your space as well. Do customers have to wear a mask? How far apart do they need to stay? Where should they enter and exit? What are your new cleaning procedures? Is there one area cordoned off for takeout orders?

Provide all information necessary to keep them informed so that the transition goes smoothly. Make sure signs are displayed throughout the space and prominently. You may even want to post a FAQ page around your restaurant, so customers know every step you’re taking to put their safety first.

To help your restaurant make the transition easier, TCGC remains the leader in social distancing signage.

Our displays include floor decals, posters, stickers, and more, which communicate procedures clearly to your customers. We also provide PPE, including FDA-approved reusable masks, hand sanitizer, and sneeze guard shields.

Contact TCGC to learn more about our social distancing signage and PPE products.

We would love to learn about your company and help you create a memorable experience. Call 954.838.9318 or email us

Gaby Thierer

Gaby founded TCGC in 2002 shortly after she immigrated from Argentina. Following her family’s blueprint, Gaby has been working in the printing industry since only 12 years old. Over the years she has worked with thousands of companies helping making their brand memorable.

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