How local restaurants can prepare for and respond to coronavirus (COVID-19)

In this 6-minute read:

  • Recommendations from the SBA
  • Emergency funding options
  • How to guide restaurant staff
  • Emphasize a clean environment
  • Put a future game plan in place

Important PPP update for 2021

On December 22, 2020, Congress passed a bill renewing funding under the CARES Act, including an additional $284 billion earmarked for America’s struggling small businesses. The rules and application process for PPP loans and forgiveness have been modified, with more businesses eligible for PPP loans, more expenses forgivable, and a simplified application process. Also there is provision for “second draw” PPP loans for businesses that received PPP funding in 2020.


Most local businesses are being severely impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and restaurants are no exception. In fact, restaurants were among the first to see a drop in sales as people stayed home and trid to limit the spread of this disease… particularly Chinese restaurants.

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Through this guide, we’ll give you expert direction from the SBA and CDC on how to maintain a healthy work environment for your employees and customers as well as provide suggestions for how to keep business flowing during this time. 

SBA’s guide for businesses and employers for dealing with coronavirus

The U.S. Small Business Administration has put out a guide for businesses and employers to help with the impacts of COVID-19. Familiarize yourself and your employees with these directives. 

Economic Injury Disaster Loan program

If your restaurant is experiencing a drop in revenue due to the coronavirus and you are struggling to make ends meet, the SBA has an Economic Injury Disaster Loan program in place to help for situations such as this. 

Learn more

Guidance for restaurant owners and managers

In the SBA’s guide for small business owners and employers, they outline several of the common issues that restaurants and other businesses will face due to the virus:

  • Strain getting access to capital and supplies as demand increases in grocery stores and supermarkets for food products and supplies
  • Capacity to meet demands of customers may be strained as employees are affected by the disease
  • Inventory depletions–make sure that you have enough supplies on hand to meet and increase in demand for your services
  • More frequent sanitization costs as you work to keep your facility clean
  • Insurance coverage issues–contact your insurance agent to see what your coverage looks like during this time
  • Marketing transparency–it’s more important than ever to keep up your marketing efforts to help customers understand how your restaurant will be impacted and what precautions you are taking
  • Creating a plan to move forward (more on this later)

How to guide and manage restaurant employees curing COVID-19 crisis

It’s always important to maintain clear policies and guidelines for your employees, especially those that are handling food for your customers. But now these are more important than ever.

You should maintain flexibility in working schedule for those that develop symptoms of respiratory illness or fever and those whose family may be impacted by the disease, school closures, and other circumstances. This situation is going to suck for everyone, but making it worse by forcing sick employees to work is not a good idea.

restaurant owner consulting employee about coronavirus

Follow the CDC’s guide for businesses and employers

The CDC has released a guide for businesses and employers to follow when it comes to managing your employees. These are especially important for restaurant staff. 

Encourage sick employees to stay home. If any employees are showing signs of respiratory illness or a fever of 100.4° F or higher, they should stay home until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours (without the use of medications like cough suppressants and cold medicines). 

Separate sick employees and send them home. If any of your employees come to work and start showing signs of respiratory illness or fever, send them home immediately. Keep them away from customers and other employees and sanitize their workstation thoroughly. 

Encourage respiratory etiquette and proper hand hygiene. Most restaurants (if not all) generally have handwashing guides in place for their employees. This is now more important than ever. Refresh your employees on the importance of proper hygiene during this time and put up reminders of proper sneezing and coughing etiquette for your employees and customers. 

Perform routine environmental cleaning. It is especially important to regularly clean areas where frequent contact occurs: tables, doorknobs, sink handles, paper towel dispensers, chair tops, etc. Be sure that someone is assigned this task as customers come and go. 

Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps. Ask your employees to inform you of any travel plans they have coming up in the coming months. Advise them to check for signs of respiratory illness before and after their travels and to notify you if they start to feel ill at any point in their travels. 

Direct them to the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest travel guidance. 

Prepare for potential increase in employee absences

You should prepare for increased absences in your employees and maintain compassion and flexibility for those who are impacted by school closures and ill family members. 

Be sure to identify essential roles that must be met during working hours, such as sanitizing and meeting customer orders in a safe and prompt manner. 

Minimize exposure between employees and customers to keep the spread of any illnesses to a minimum. You can do this by spacing tables farther apart and advising employees to keep at least three feet of distance between them and customers when possible. 

Put extra emphasis into sanitizing your restaurant

We have touched on this a couple of times already, but we cannot stress this enough. As a restaurant owner, this is likely already a high point of emphasis with your employees, but we feel the need to continue to emphasize the need for sanitization during this time. 

restaurant manager sanitizing surfaces

Some tips to encourage customers and employees to keep your restaurant clean:

  • Wash hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds after each break, before and after eating, after using the restroom, and after touching one’s face, head, or clothing
  • Sanitize surfaces like tables, door handles, counters, and chairs after a customer leaves
  • Keep kitchen surfaces cleaned between each order and at the start and end of each shift
  • Keep hand sanitizer readily available on checkout counter and in the lobby
  • Make sure your customers see you and your employees properly sanitizing surfaces and washing hands regularly

Prepare a future game plan for your restaurant

As this outbreak carries on and spreads to more people, it’s important to put a game plan in place for the future of your restaurant. Your restaurant can continue to gain business and stay up and running, you just need to get some plans in place to handle the changes that current circumstances may bring. 

Are you expecting business to drop?

Restaurants may face a drop in business as more and more people are opting to stay home and away from crowds to prevent the spread of the virus. 

If your restaurant faces revenue losses due to a decrease in customers or increase in employee absence, then you might consider the following options:

Stay in contact with your customers

It is especially important to keep your customers updated on any changes that may be taking place in your restaurant, such as changes to hours in your drive through or lobby and delivery/takeout options. 

You can keep your customers up to date by:

Stay positive and let your customers know that you want to continue to provide this service for them and that your employees are taking every precaution to maintain a healthy and clean environment. 

Think outside the box

With more people deciding to stay in and eat from home, that doesn’t mean that your restaurant has to lose out on business opportunities. It just means you may need to adapt the way you are doing business. 

You may decide to close the lobby of your restaurant to keep limited contact between employees and customers but keep your drive-through open for longer hours. Or if you don’t have a drive-through, you might encourage curbside pick up for all takeout orders. 

If you are able to, start offering delivery services to encourage customers to continue to do business with you from their homes. 

Keep up your marketing efforts by putting out different deals and promotions, showing that you are still in business and doing all that you can to help your customers during this crazy time. 

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