With customers frequently coming and going, it’s imperative for quick-service restaurants to prepare their properties for winter. For the safety of customers, employees, and deliveries entering and exiting, the property must be safe and serviced to limit liability during the winter months.

Mother Nature is not selective when it comes to the winter season. For restaurants in areas where temperatures can fall below zero, there’s a lot of front-end work that goes into preparing sites to handle the cold weather. If you have locations in areas where snowfall is the normal expectation for winter, preparing for snow accumulations that may hinder your operations is a strategic step that businesses must take so they can open and service their customers. Preparedness is the smart move whether you are expecting freezing temperatures or lots of snow.

These are the top things you’ll want to make sure are done prior to the winter season: deactivate or turn off the sprinkler system, landscape pruning and cleanup, parking lot maintenance, and a plan for snow and ice removal.

It’s recommended for all of the below preparations to take place before the temperatures dip below freezing.

  • Sprinkler system preparation
  • Ensure your team knows where the sprinkler system controller and backflow are located should there be a need to turn off the water to the system during a cold snap or if there is a leak.
  • Blow out the sprinkler system lines to prevent damage caused by freezing of the pipes, which can result in expensive line or backflow repairs in the spring.
  • Shut off the main backflow valve before the first freeze and turn off any automatic sprinkler system.


Landscape pruning and preparation

  • Fountain grass can either be cut back in the winter or early spring. It is important to cut back to allow new growth in the spring. 
  • Fall (or right before the cold weather begins) is a great time to fertilize the lawn to promote root growth and prepare for the next growing season. 
  • After the final leaf drop in fall, the leaves will need to be raked up and disposed. Leaves left on the lawn will suffocate and kill the grass leaving unsightly brown or bare patches. After the final leaf pickup is done, the turf should be mowed at around three inches to prevent fungus. 
  • Evergreen trees usually do not need pruning other than removing dead or broken branches, which can be removed at any time of year. Pruning of deciduous trees can be done mid to late winter to remove any dead or low hanging branches.


Potholes and parking lot maintenance

  • It’s a good idea to take care of any potholes on your property before the first snowfall.  The freeze and thawing action of moisture in cracks and pot holes creates a bigger problem in the spring, not to mention the liability from a trip and fall or vehicle damage.
  • Take care of your parking lot before the first snow fall, because any repairs are difficult to do in the winter weather. This includes parking lot stripes, repaving, sealing, and sweeping. Your asphalt is a major investment, but is also a crucial component to enhancing your brand and making a positive first impression. This also eliminates safety hazards, especially if there is snow fall, and extends the life of the parking lot.
  • Drive-thru lanes may be busier this season and you want to trim back any overgrowth from bushes and ensure tall grasses are cut down. Visibility is key with your drive thru to improve the line of sight and reduce accidents.


Plan for snow and ice removal

  • By this time of year, many of you have already been in talks with local contractors or management companies and have secured contracts for snow and ice removal. Be sure your discussions with your contractors or management company have included where snow will be piled in the parking lot. Some quick-service restaurants may not have large enough parking lots, and snow may need to be hauled away. Addressing this will ensure your parking lots will have the maximum space available for customers, create a safer environment, and maximize profitability.
  • With the pandemic this year, more than ever, it will be imperative that you ensure walkways to takeout areas are kept clean and free of debris, snow and ice. It’s best to enlist your supplier to provide the service for these areas to ensure safe ingress and egress for your employees, patrons and food delivery personnel.
  • Ensure the drive-thru lanes are kept free of snow and ice build-up to allow clients to drive through safely and keep the flow of traffic moving from your order lane to the pick up lane and exit lanes.


Lesley Dunham is the Director of Quality Service Inspectors and Executive Assistant to the COO for DENTCO, the nation’s No. 1 Exterior Service Management Company. Dunham is celebrating 20 years with DENTCO and 25 years in the Facility Management arena, with a passion for customer and quality service shared with a keen eye on cost management.

Outside Insights, Story