Eating Out After Lockdown: Reopening Your Restaurant After Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally shifted the landscape of the UK’s restaurant industry. With restaurants, pubs and bars ordered to shut down their usual operations from the end of March, the entire country has since been adjusting to the “new normal”.

Despite the uncertainty over when and how lockdown restrictions will be eased, having a solid plan for reopening will be key for any hospitality business. Necessary adjustments will have to be made for government guidelines and public safety, but there is likely to be a boom with pent-up demand for dining out.

After months of isolation, the British public is looking forwards to the days when a trip to their favourite local restaurant or celebrating with family and friends are back on the menu. Ensuring that your establishment caters appropriately to the post-corona situation will be essential – with social distancing, enhanced hygiene and outdoor dining all likely to form part of the restaurant rulebook for some time to come. With these factors in mind, retractable canopies can provide a key solution for restaurants reopening after covid-19.

Establish socially distant dining

Industry experts predict that some level of social distancing will be part of the UK’s daily life for the foreseeable future. This means that restaurants must give guests space to physically distance themselves from each other. Ensure that groups of tables and chairs are far enough apart to avoid ostracising diners wary of going back to ‘normal’ too soon. This is easier said than done, as space is often a key consideration for smaller establishments. If a restaurant’s daily covers are halved, then revenue will be similarly reduced. So what is the solution?

Retractable awnings and canopies are the perfect way for restaurants to increase their footprint (and thus responsible covers) without investing in expensive renovation projects and complex planning procedures. The added benefits of fresh air and light, shade sails are a particularly stylish solution, will improve the ‘safe haven’ ambience for your guests, as well as resulting in safer working spaces for your staff.

Diversify your offering

It is a sad truth that many restaurants and pubs may not survive the UK coronavirus lockdown. This does mean that with fewer options when businesses do reopen, those still operating may be even busier than before. One way to take advantage of this, and adapt your operations accordingly is to diversify your offering. Some people simply won’t be comfortable dining out for a long time to come, so why not start providing some form of retail or take-out operations alongside your sit-in business?

Installing a bespoke covered outdoor area will assist with this, for instance allowing a pop-up food truck to be established or even serving takeaway meals from a pre-existing hatch. If your restaurant operates in a family-friendly area, providing reheatable meals in a variety of portion sizes could be a good idea, or even selling key grocery items under a retractable awning at the front of your establishment. Having somewhere comfortable for customers to wait for their orders (at a safe distance) will massively help your restaurant adapt to the post-coronavirus reality.

Create a safe space

Unsurprisingly, maintaining a clean and safe space will be even more important after covid-19 abates. Incorporating fresh air and more distance between customers, with retractable canopies facilitating outdoor dining throughout the year, will help establish a spotless atmosphere. This includes asking staff to wash their hands even more regularly, wipe down tables, chairs and high-contact surfaces, such as light switches, doors and POS systems, when customers leave and arrive, as well as considering going cashless and investing in signage and communicating your restaurant’s efforts.

As a result of these actions, restaurants may have to employ more waiters or even a member of staff dedicated to cleaning during service. This means that further space, and income from increased covers, will need to be found. Making the most of any commercial outdoor area through terrace awnings and canopies will help make every table count. As coronavirus is spread through airborne droplets, eating outdoors without recirculating air conditioning or heating units will also be perceived as lower risk. Tackling these aspects now will increase consumer confidence in your restaurant as a safe, hygienic space.

Focus on atmosphere and ambience

While demand is likely to bounce back quickly for social dining and drinking, there will also be pressure for safe, physically distanced spaces. People are willing to spend more money eating in restaurants, not only because of the quality of the food but also because of the atmosphere and social aspects. Consequently, focusing your marketing efforts on building a sense of responsible community is key. During the time that your establishment is closed or offering a reduced service ensure that communication with customers is maintained.

Keep your digital marketing content light and entertaining, offering added value such as skill-sharing with cooking tips and basic recipes. In an age when social media and appearance is more important than ever, sharing images and reminding customers of the fantastic, calming ambience of your restaurant will be key to their return post-lockdown. An outdoor space with a beautiful fabric canopy will go a long way in selling your restaurant as a safe refuge for local customers to responsibly gather.

Despite coronavirus posing the largest existential threat the UK restaurant industry has ever seen – there are also plentiful opportunities for businesses ready to adapt. Making the most of your existing outdoor space with retractable canopies and awnings will help put your customers’ minds at ease and ultimately improve your revenue. With a focus on strategies for reopening in a responsible welcoming manner, you’ll be back up and running in no time.