The National Restaurant Association (www.restaurant.org ) is offering its members and the restaurant community at large the following tips to prepare for Hurricane Irene in at-risk areas on the East Coast.
- The safety of employees and guests is first and foremost. Keep up to date with the latest developments through state and local government sources to determine if and when to close your business.
- Consider donating surplus food to local shelters and emergency facilities if you are closing your business, as well as when you re-open. Restaurants are often on the front lines in disaster recovery efforts by providing food and water for first responders or displaced residents. Check with disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross, local fire departments, and your state restaurant associations.
- Communicate frequently with employees, both before and after the emergency situation. Be sure to inform them of your emergency plan and where to look for information from you. Bear in mind that cell phones may not function during an emergency situation if networks get overloaded or damaged. Text messages (SMS) may work better than phone service. Also, compile a list of employees’ personal email addresses to use in case the restaurant company’s server is damaged.
- If you don’t have a social media presence already, create a Facebook page and/or other social media channels for your restaurant to use as communications vehicles for employees and patrons.
- Create a checklist  of how to prepare your business for closing quickly. Include procedures for reducing perishable inventory (i.e. clean out walk-ins, ice bins, etc.), securing equipment, and removing critical business records and valuables. Doing this can reduce damage and facilitate re-opening.
- Save important business documents on a USB drive to keep on hand offsite. Include emergency contacts for employees, business insurance information, and crucial permits, financial, and payroll records.
- Prepare a template news release and a list of key media contacts in your area so that you can quickly get news out about your business status.
- Familiarize yourself with the inspection process required for re-opening after the emergency. When reentering your restaurant after it is deemed safe, document any damage in photos and/or video for insurance purposes. Do not re-open your business if power and running water are unavailable.