COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the restaurant industry. For months, most restaurants across the country could only offer take-out options. But now, as some states begin the process of reopening their economies, restaurants have more flexibility, like offering outdoor seating or limited indoor dining.

However, this “new normal” will be a tough balancing act for restaurant owners as they work to get operations going again while still maintaining safety standards.

That’s why we’ve put together this safety checklist for reopening your restaurant to help you hit the ground running.

Understand local health and safety guidelines

Your main priority should always be the health and safety of your staff and customers. Now more than ever, it’s vital to follow safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Since each state or city may have its own set of rules it’s important to brush up on the latest developments. In general here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your restaurant
  • Make hand sanitizer available for employees and guests
  • Pay attention to high-traffic areas, like entryways and food-prep areas and make sure they get extra cleanings
  • Require all guests and employees to wear a mask or face covering
  • Keep all tables at least six feet apart
  • Encourage contactless or digital payment options
  • If you haven’t already, consider expanding or creating an outdoor seating area so your guests can take advantage of the summer weather.


Create a plan with your team

Good communication will be key to keep operations running smoothly. Create written guidelines for your staff that go over your new procedures and make sure managers have a checklist that staff can use during their shifts. Here are some points to consider including:

  • Decide what your hours will be. Will you go back to your old operating hours or modify them?
  • Train employees on new safety procedures
  • Make it mandatory that employees stay home if they feel sick


Don’t just keep your staff informed about changes and new procedures, make sure your customers are aware as well. It will help set the expectation for what their dining experience will be like, which brings us to the next point.

Promote the reopening of your restaurant

How will people know that you’re opening your doors for dining, pick-up, or delivery? Make sure to come up with a plan to promote your restaurant. Posting regular updates to your social media is an easy way to do this. Don’t forget to update your Google My Business listing with information about your new hours of operation and whether dine-in options are available. In addition, try offering promos or referral discounts to encourage people to visit your restaurant. 

Check your insurance policies

A lot has changed in recent months, which means it’s important to revisit your insurance policies to make sure you’re adequately covered against new risks. Here are some things to keep in mind as you reevaluate your insurance:

  • If you canceled or deactivated your policies make sure you call your insurance provider to let them know about your reopening plans.
  • Ask your provider about different payment options, such as a pay-as-you-go option
  • See if you can bundle policies together. For example, a Business Owners Policy (BOP) often combines General Liability and Commercial Property, which can save you money compared to purchasing two separate policies.
  • Let your adviser know about any operational changes. For example, if you have fewer employees now that could factor into a lower premium for your Workers Compensation policy.


You may find that your current policies aren’t enough to cover new liabilities, here are several insurance products to consider when you reopen your restaurant:

  • Cyber Liability insurance: If you’re accepting online payments or using an online delivery system you could be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. This policy can help you recover from damages related to data breaches.
  • Commercial Auto insurance: If you’ve added deliveries to your operation, make sure your drivers are protected from accidents. Even if they’re using personal vehicles they still need a commercial policy because a personal auto policy will not cover accidents related to business purposes.


Key Takeaways

Reopening your restaurant may be challenging especially during these uncertain times. Make sure you take a look at new state and local regulations, maintain good communication with your team, and reevaluate your insurance needs. With this checklist in mind, you’ll be able to keep your operations going while keeping safety a priority.

Emily Lazration is the Content Marketing Specialist at CoverWallet, a tech company that makes it easy for businesses to understand, buy, and manage commercial insurance online. She has written for several outlets including Inc., Ooma, and Fundera covering small business news and advice.

Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations, Story