The rules will be different everywhere, but thinking ahead is essential.
How should restaurants reopen in a world that looks nothing like it did just two months ago? As operators in some parts of the country look for a green light on dining in, the answer is murky.
A lot depends on provincial and local guidelines that cover everything from opening to occupancy to social distancing and sanitation. Here is some guidance to help you understand:
WHO can tell me when it’s OK to reopen?
Look for your Premier and Public Health Office in each province to set guidelines. For example, Public Health Ontario establishes guidelines and advises Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Each Public Health Office is guided by Public Health Canada.
WHEN will customers be able to sit at my tables?
It depends on your location. As of May 6, only Manitoba is allowing dine-in eating for outdoor/patio settings. Reopening will likely look different in each province and territory, according to the Restaurants Canada Reopening Tracker:
- Alberta: limited opening planned May 14.
- British Columbia: Phase 2 opening planned for mid-May.
- Manitoba: Stage 2 will begin no earlier than June 1.
- New Brunswick: Restaurants could reopen as part of Phase 2 anytime within the next two weeks.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Restaurants will remain closed for in-person dining throughout Alert Level 4.
- Nova Scotia: Some public health restrictions were lifted on May 1, but no clear guidelines have been set for reopening restaurants.
- Ontario: No clear guidelines have been set for reopening restaurants.
- Prince Edward Island: Limited Phase 3 reopening could start by June 12.
- Quebec: No clear guidelines have been set for reopening restaurants.
- Saskatchewan: Restaurants are part of a Phase 3 reopening plan. A date has not been determined, but Phase 2 is scheduled to start May 19.
WHAT dine-in rules might I face?
Again, the rules won’t be the same for every restaurant. Federal and provincial governments and local health officials have policymaking authority. Restaurants Canada can provide clarity. Some possible safety measures include:
- Temperature checks at the entrance
- Restricted seating capacity
- Signage on entrances, exits and floors
- No waiting lines allowed
- Social distancing between guests and tables
- All guests may need masks (employees may need face shields, masks and gloves)
WHERE should I start?
Restrictions will touch every area of your business, and there’s no area more important right now than cleanliness and safety. Welcome guests to break quarantine and feel comfortable:
- Deep clean and sanitize regularly (guests will be comforted seeing spray bottles and wipes)
- Train your staff on regulations
- Communicate your enhanced procedures and commitment to health and safety
- Make masks available
- Have hand sanitizer available
HOW will this affect my business?
A lot depends on the type of restaurant you run. Fast-casual restaurants will have different challenges than fine dining. Some considerations:
- Right-size your menu by limiting core items
- Decide the role takeout/delivery will play
- Utilize food trucks to encourage social distancing and supplement takeout needs
ARE the precautions worth it?
The new normal will look abnormal for a while. The health and safety of your guests and staff are vital. Knowing the rules, best practices, and creating a plan gets your restaurant ready and allows you to adjust as time goes on.