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Now that the hospitality industry is free to open once again and the pandemic seems to be under control with the vaccination programme on track, Curry Life has a few tips for restaurant owners regarding reopening successfully.

We have gathered this advice in recent weeks through our many conversations with veteran restaurateurs, hospitality experts, and business strategists. We hope you find these tips helpful!

Prioritise your regulars

While your regulars have likely visited you for takeaway throughout the pandemic, they’ll have missed table service. Ordering a takeaway is great, but your regular customers will be keen to come back and enjoy sit-down dining once again. Therefore, make sure your local, frequent customers are welcomed back and treated like old family members.

While we fully recommend doing what you can to attract new business, it’s your regulars that will keep the bills paid. At this point in time, they are the customers you need to impress the most. Show them what they’ve been missing. Many of them will have craved your cooking in the past few months, so make sure it was worth the wait!

Reward their loyalty in any way you can, but most of all, just make sure they have a great experience. If you’ve seen them regularly during the pandemic, then thank them for their support.

Don’t abandon takeaways

Takeaway food may have been your primary source of income over the past twelve months, and chances are you’re keen to leave it behind and get back to being a dine-in restaurant. You may also have sold a lot of takeaway food before the pandemic, meaning it will always form part of your strategy. Tempting as it might be to focus more on restaurant dining, we’d caution against abandoning takeaway or easing off the throttle fully.

We understand your desire to jump back into table service now that restaurants are open again, but it’s a good idea to keep your takeaway processes active. Lots of people are still wary of the virus and will still be ordering takeaway food for a while longer. They may not yet be comfortable returning to restaurants yet.

Covid-19 is still a threat, and nobody can rule out another lockdown. This is why restaurants need to be able to go right back to a takeaway-only model if the need arises. We sincerely hope this doesn’t happen, but few things in life are certain. Keep your takeaway infrastructure in place, just in case.

Review your menu

You may have made amendments to your menu during the pandemic. You may have omitted some items due to increased supplier costs or difficulties procuring certain ingredients as a result of recent trade complications. Be it due to Brexit, the pandemic, or a certain ship being stuck in a certain canal; it’s been a complicated time for businesses which import goods.

But some of these issues are being resolved and this creates more options for restaurant owners. Work out what you can comfortably bring back. It may be your whole menu or just certain dishes. Now may be a good time to shake things up and make the changes you want going forward. You could even advertise your ‘New Menu’ to get your customers excited.

Evaluate your suppliers and your staff training

Speaking of suppliers, take time to evaluate them and see which ones are worth keeping, now that the industry is coming back to life. There may be cheaper alternatives, or it may be worth paying more if there is a price increase.  The price of many suppliers skyrocketed during the pandemic, and they may lose customers if this continues in the long-term. Make sure you do what’s right for you and your business. 

Health and safety concerns are now at the forefront of customer’s minds. Hygiene and cleanliness have always been essential to the restaurant trade, even before the pandemic, but now these concerns have increased in importance due to the existence of Covid-19.

This means restaurant owners and managers need to ensure their staff are taking health and safety guidelines as seriously as possible. There is no room for error or a relaxed approach. Staff must adhere to the rules if they are to work in this sector.

It’s your responsibility as a restaurant owner to ensure your team is fully trained and aware of what the guidelines are. It’s also worth encouraging your staff to get vaccinated. This could help ensure Covid stays out of the restaurant, keeping you, your team, and your customers safe.

Keep up to date with guidelines and reassess your marketing

As restrictions ease, the guidelines are changing rapidly. However, the government’s roadmap could change as new strains of Covid are identified. There are likely to be regional guidelines too, depending on where you are in the UK.

Stay up to date with current affairs and keep an eye on what’s going on in your area. While restrictions are relaxing, they could return at a moment’s notice. It’s likely that summer 2021 will not be the complete end of Covid-19, so stay vigilant. Know what you can and cannot do legally, then act accordingly.

Now is the time to tell the world that you’re back in business. There are many different ways to do this; you could consider traditional advertising, like leaflet drops. Or you could take advantage of digital and social media with targeted ads. If you can afford it, then you could hire a marketing executive or an outside agency to help you – but only if that works for you and your restaurant.

Even if you don’t pay for it, we’d advise using social media to let your customers know that you’re back. Share some enticing pictures of your meals and let them know your opening hours. Remember, it’s free to use a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page, so don’t be afraid to try these out.

Plan for a gradual reopening

Just because you can reopen fully doesn’t mean you have to, at least not right away. If you’re more comfortable opening in stages, draw up a plan for this. It could mean only opening on weekends or weekdays or simply opening a few days a week and seeing how it goes.

Go at your pace. You may still be building back up to a full reopening. There may still be staffing, menu, or other logistical concerns to consider. Therefore, do whatever works for you, and don’t be pressured into doing anything you’re not ready to do.

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