Portrait of a happy waitress standing at restaurant entrance. Portrait of mature business woman in black apron ready to attend new customers in her just opened coffee shop. Happy beautiful woman owner showing open sign in her small business shop. concept: Restaurant reopening plan
By: rkapur
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Restaurant Reopening Plan: Post-COVID Checklist

The COVID-19 crisis has led the restaurant business into uncharted territory. Many cafes and dining establishments across the country have closed. Some others have remained open, but just for takeout or delivery. 

This new normal is not ideal, as sales are not as strong as they used to be.

But there’s a glimmer of hope. 

The government’s Opening Up America Again initiative could lead to a gradual return to normalcy. Restaurant owners should develop a restaurant reopening plan and keep it ready.

But… what should you include in your restaurant reopening plan? 

Which are the precautions you need to take? 

Don’t worry, in this article, you’ll find a checklist that will help you get started. 

Restaurant Reopening Plan Checklist

Restaurant reopening plan checklist Clean and sanitize your restaurant Let customers know you’re reopening Train your employees - what’s the difference between cleaning and sanitizing Have Masks and gloves for employees Develop an SOP for employees who fall sick at work Consider issuing your employees with a letter stating that he or she is an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker” Teach hand washing 101 for employees Implement food safety guidelines Be prepared for a drop in customer footfall Follow the rules regarding the minimum space between tables Provide plenty of disinfecting gel for customers Review your restroom rules Provide disposable menus Reassure your customers about the safety of food deliveries Infographic, Camino Financial

1. Clean and sanitize your restaurant

Although this is a fundamental step, it should be the first thing you put down in your restaurant reopening plan. 

Remember: Cleaning should be done before sanitization. 

Keep these points in mind before you start:

  • The entire restaurant should be cleaned. Don’t overlook any area.
  • Disinfectants shouldn’t be used on surfaces that come directly in contact with food.
  • Establish a system that ensures that cleaning will be carried out as soon as diners leave a table.

Which are the antimicrobial products that should be used to combat the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2? 

You can refer to the EPA’s list of registered disinfectant products to find out.

2. Let customers know you’re reopening

Your restaurant reopening plan should include communicating with your customers. Put up a sign outside your restaurant. 

What time will you open every day?

 What are the steps you have taken to keep your customers safe? 

It’s essential to use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

An active social media presence will allow you to engage with customers and keep them informed of developments.

You could use a sign like this one:

Restaurant reopening plan: open sign, Camino Financial, infographic


Would you like to print and use this poster in your restaurant? You can download a version you can fill with your own information here.

3. Train your employees – what’s the difference between cleaning and sanitizing

Remember that in the post-COVID-19 world, cleanliness should be priority #1. 

Your employees need to know what they should do to maintain hygiene in the restaurant. Devise and implement a cleaning and sanitization process as part of your restaurant reopening plan. The National Restaurant Association advises its members to follow a five-step procedure.

5-Step Procedure For Effective Cleaning And Sanitizing Scrape or remove food from the surface Wash the surface Rinse the surface Sanitize the surface Allow the surface to air dry Camino Financial, infographic

Would you like to print and use this poster in your restaurant for your employees? You can download it here.

4. Have masks and gloves for employees

The U.S. government’s Recommendations for Face Covers has made it mandatory for restaurants to provide their employees with masks. These aren’t surgical masks or N-95 respirators. They are regular face masks (they can even be home-made). 

It’s a good idea for your employees to use disposable gloves, as well. 

5. Develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for employees who fall sick at work

Tell all your workers that they should stay at home if they aren’t feeling well. It’s important that all your employees are aware of this and that they know that their work will not be affected in any way if they have to stay at home because they’re feeling sick.

But what if one of them starts feeling unwell at work? 

You should definitely provide the help they require, but make sure that they leave immediately.

6. Consider issuing your employees with a letter stating that they are an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker”

There’s a possibility that an employee may be stopped on their way to work because of restrictions on travel being enforced in your area. 

Fortunately, restaurant workers are classified as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers according to the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. So, they shouldn’t be prevented from traveling from their homes to their place of work.

You could issue each of your employees a letter stating that they are allowed to travel to and from work. Here’s a  sample letter from the National Restaurant Association

7. Teach hand washing 101 for employees

How often should your workers wash their hands? 

According to foodsafetyfocus, they should wash their hands before they handle food. Additionally, hand washing is required after these activities.

Restaurant reopening plan: washing hands Wash Your Hands After These Activities Handling raw meat, poultry and seafood Using the restroom Touching their hair, face, body, clothes or apron Sneezing, coughing or using a tissue Smoking, eating, drinking, or chewing gum Using chemicals that might affect the safety of the food Emptying or taking out garbage Clearing tables or washing dirty dishes Handling money and making change Camino Financial, infographic

Would you like to print and use this poster in your restaurant for your employees? You can download it here.

8. Implement food safety guidelines

With hygiene and cleanliness taking center stage, your reopening plan should include the steps you’ll take to ensure that your food-safety practices are of the highest quality. 

It’s likely that your restaurant already implements most of these procedures, but it’s advisable to revisit them:

  • Clean and sanitize utensils often
  • Refrigerate perishable food
  • Clean cutting boards, knives, and countertops with hot, soapy water
  • Discard out-of-date food

You can refer to the United States Department of Agriculture website for comprehensive details about food safety procedures. 

9. Be prepared for a drop in customer footfall

Don’t expect things to get back to normal very soon. You’ll probably be working at a fraction of your full capacity for some time. Your restaurant reopening plan should take this into account. 

10. Follow the rules regarding the minimum space between tables

You may have to redesign your seating arrangements as part of your restaurant reopening plan. Tables need to be at least six feet apart. It’s advisable to check your state or local requirements regarding this issue.

11. Provide plenty of disinfecting gel for customers

Encourage your customers to use hand sanitizer when they visit your restaurant. 

It’s important to offer disinfecting gel when they enter, but you should also allow them to be able to use it whenever they want or need it. Place the sanitizing gel at strategic points where it’s easy to access.

12. Review your restroom rules

It’s essential to keep your restroom spotlessly clean. Consider the following issues when you are making your restaurant reopening plan:

  • Can the restroom be opened without touching the door handle? Provide paper towels if it can’t.
  • You should also make paper towels available for turning the faucet on and off.
  • Social distancing rules apply in the restroom, too. Here’s how a GE Appliances factory has implemented social distancing in its restroom urinals.

Restaurant reopening plan: COVID-19 social distancing restroom. Photo by GE and the Wall Street Journal

Source: Wall Street Journal

13. Provide disposable menus

Reusable menus can be a source of infection, so you’d have to disinfect them continuously. 

It’s preferable to switch over to disposable menus. In essence, this will not only help your employees save time, as they will not have to disinfect menus, but customers will highly appreciate it. 

Buy disposable menus in bulk and throw them away just after one use.

14. Reassure your customers about the safety of food deliveries

If you provide a takeout option, some of your customers may have safety concerns. 

Could the COVID-19 virus be transmitted in the packaging? 

Is the food hygienic? 

Here’s some information from North Carolina State University that can provide reassurance to your customers.

COVID-19 and Food Safety

Restaurant reopening plan: COVID-19 And Food Safety, North Carolina State University

Source: North Carolina State University

Details by State

When will you get a chance to put your restaurant reopening plan into action?

 It depends upon the state in which your restaurant is located. Here are details of key developments in some key states:


On March 20, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that required all restaurants to stop serving food and alcohol to customers on their premises. However, restaurants are permitted to provide takeout and delivery. This order remains in force, and there’s no indication when it will be lifted. 


Dining rooms are closed across the state. But drive-through, delivery, and curbside pick-up are available. Governor Greg Abbott is expected to announce reopening dates soon. 


The California Department of Public Health has stated that “Restaurants should be closed for in-restaurant seated dining and should be open only to drive-through or other pick-up/delivery options.

Governor Gavin Newsom has said that the state may require restaurants to have more space between tables. Temperature checks for customers may also be introduced. No timeline has been announced for the implementation of these changes.

New York

COVID-19 has hit New York hard. Restaurants have been restricted to delivery and takeout since March 16. Stay at home orders were issued on March 22. 

When will restaurants reopen? Governor Cuomo has said that as COVID-19 hasn’t affected every part of the state equally, it would be logical to take reopening decisions based on region.


Dine-in restaurants and bars have been closed since March 17. They will remain closed until May 30. 


There’s good news for restaurant owners. Dining rooms in the state have been allowed to reopen from April 27. They’ll need to comply with 39 guidelines announced by the state. These include screening employees for illness and restricting the number of guests to 10 per 500 square feet.


Dine-in restaurants have been allowed to reopen from April 25. But they’ll need to screen employees for illness and implement rules to increase the physical distance between staff and customers. Additionally, a maximum of six customers per table will be permitted. 


Dine-in services in the state have been suspended since March 20. But restaurants are allowed delivery, drive-through, takeout, and curbside services. There’s no indication when restaurants will be allowed to reopen.


Governor Larry Hogan says that he plans to reopen the state for business in a phased manner from May. Restaurants could be back in business if the number of people affected by COVID-19 plateaus or declines for 14 days. But it’s too early to say when this will happen.


Restrictions on restaurants that provide food or drinks on their premises have been in force since March 17. These will remain in effect until May 4. 

Final Words

Restaurant owners are going through difficult times. However, things are bound to improve gradually. And it’s a good idea to be prepared. Review the checklist that we have provided and see which issues you need to address. Alternatively, you can download the checklist so you can print it and work with it.

At Camino Financial, we’re committed to helping your business through these challenging times. Our motto, No business left behind, ensures that our team will do its best to provide you with the tools you need to continue operations during these challenging times. 

As part of this effort, we have created a resources page. We encourage you to refer to it for information on the various government relief programs and the tools you need to navigate this crisis.

COVID-19: Small Business Resources, coronavirus, Camino financial

COVID-19: Small Business Resources

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