Many restaurants across the U.S. are reopening and new social distancing rules are here. What does this look like? Once we were in a time where social distancing was only outside places of an eatery.

Restaurants closed their doors for quite some time due to the Coronavirus outbreak. But, new guidelines are out and allow for some places to open up once again.  There are proper steps to make social distancing work to create a safe dining experience. Additionally, the changes that businesses have to face are tailored to ensure safety.

The National Restaurant Association includes social distancing guidelines in their Reopening Guidance. Here are a few highlighted ones they include:

  1. Update floor plans and limit party size
  2. Limit contact between wait staff and guests
  3. Physical barriers are acceptable
  4. Use technology to reduce contact
  5. No congregating in waiting areas
  6. Post signage reminding guests about social distancing

In this blog post, we will deep dive into some of the guidelines above to help you put them in place in your restaurant. It will take some time to figure out how to accommodate everything. Yet, with time, these actions will help restore dining in again.

Here are specific measures your restaurant can take to make these work:

1. Start From The Outside

As your guests come to join you once again, you want to be clear about the rules inside. A suggestion is to put your outlined rules outside of your establishment. Post signs in highly visible areas such as at your entrance and in restrooms. Such rules can include “Here’s what we ask of you”:

  1. Please follow the 6 feet distancing guidelines indicated with markers on the ground
  2. If you are showing any sickness symptoms, please stay home
  3. Use hand soap and sanitizer frequently. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds
  4. Avoid unnecessary contact
  5. Wear masks when possible

If patrons cannot follow the rules above, it will tamper with the safety you are upholding inside. These will help prevent your restaurant from breaking guidelines. Your staff is doing everything they can indoors to keep guests safe, it’s ok if you ask the same of them. Comprising social distancing guidelines can lead to a negative impact.

2. Redo Your Floor Plan

To work with the new guidelines enforced by the CDC, you need to update your table layout. This is to ensure all your guests stay at least 6 feet apart. For example, it’s important to mark tables and seats that need to remain unseated. You can do this by adding tape in the shape of an X on certain chairs, as well as on the ground in a line.

Each state has different occupancy standards they must abide by. Keep everybody less at risk in your restaurant by following capacity limits.

3. Please Wait To Be Seated

One of the most important directives you need to establish is asking all guests to wait outside. This will help manage the number of guests in the restaurant on top of the staff that’s scheduled. Additionally, if your guests are waiting to pick up food, they also should wait outside.

Have a clear, designated area at the front of your restaurant as your host stand. By doing this, you can seat guests at the appropriate table once it’s been properly sanitized.  Also, a safer menu option to keep customers and employees healthy are disposable menus. These menus are single-use and help against the spread of Coronavirus.

How do you currently let your guests know when their table is ready? To help practice social distancing, you need to be able to communicate with your guests via text. This way your guests can remain outside and you keep uphold a safe workplace. Our waitlist management system, Guest Manager, can help you do this. Give your guests the flexibility and safety that our solution has to offer.

4. Contactless Experience

The best way to maintain social distancing is to create a contactless experience. Though this isn’t what guests normally expect, it’s only to help keep them as safe as possible. Many different technology solutions allow us to do that. Quick response (QR) codes and tableside iPad ordering can boost this strategy.

Quick Response (QR) codes allow guests to navigate a whole experience contact-free. These can be used to establish a QR code menu that generates from the camera off of your guest’s cell phone. Once the QR code is scanned, the guests will be directed to a website with your restaurant menu.

QR codes can be used on receipts to allow guests to pay for their check online. When your guests pay by QR code, you don’t have to handle any cash or cards. With social distancing the goal is to try to reduce contact as much as possible.

One more thing to help your staff maintain social distancing is tableside iPad ordering. As restaurants begin to get busier, servers begin to line up at POS stations, and at this time, you want to avoid that. With iPad ordering, each server can be assigned one iPad and use only that one throughout their shift. This will help staff reduce contact with other people and turn tables faster.

To learn more about this safety feature, check out our iPad POS solution, OrderPad.

5. Physical Barriers

Installing physical barriers between guests can help maintain the new social distancing guidelines. These barriers can include plexiglass shields and sneeze guards.

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Consider placing them at the POS station, host stand, takeout station, and if needed, tables. They will protect staff and guests especially in areas where 6 feet apart is more difficult.

6. Shifts in Scheduling

The CDC recommends that restaurants stagger and or rotate employee shifts. By doing this, you can reduce the number of your staff inside at the same time.

For example, you can have certain staff come in for the morning shift and then another for the afternoon. This can assist in limiting the number of people each group comes into contact with. The precautions you take to avoid overstaffing will help reduce the risk of exposure. If your restaurant’s on-premise dining is still not open, check out this blog post to help you with your takeout social distancing efforts. 

Practice makes perfect

New social distancing guidelines are a huge improvement for restaurants returning to normal. The actions highlighted in the post are set up to help your restaurant stay afloat and open up.

At last, check out these CDC considerations for restaurants and bars. These are helpful tools for maintaining a healthy work environment and operations.

Our Guest Manager system and technology solutions can help you towards recovery. Download our free COVID-19 Restaurant Recovery Guide for support in the challenges we’ll face together.