The F&W Pro Guide to Reopening Restaurants

The restaurant business has never been more challenging. We've been collecting wisdom and best practices from leaders in the hospitality industry to help you navigate this unprecedented time.
By F&W Editors

Dear Pros,

If you’re a restaurant operator or manager, you’ve already been making dozens of calculated decisions during the pandemic to keep your business afloat and your staff and customers safe. We created this guide to help you navigate and plan for the months ahead.

While every food business should create their own operational plan tailored to their specific business needs and state regulations, one principle seems universal: Focus on the things you can actually control, including new service models and product sets, writes Korsha Wilson, who interviewed operators who have already reopened twice during the pandemic.

Another important piece of advice: Change your performance metrics and how you define "success," Matt Jennings of Full Heart Hospitality, a restaurant consultancy, told Wilson. “New success is defined by an equal distribution of attention to multiple areas: financial health, the wellbeing of our teams, and creating new experiences for the consumer and I feel like those have to have equal attention,” he says. “Nothing is more important than the other.”

Elsewhere in the guide, restaurant lawyer Jasmine Moy shares advice for how to negotiate with your landlord. And Food & Wine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah asks owners how they remain hospitable during a time when the pandemic has rendered traditional models of hospitality impossible. We were inspired by some of the ideas, including customized masks with a  photo of an employee’s smiling face and recording video messages to pair with takeout meals.

In many ways, the newest measure of hospitality is safety. As Bobby Stuckey, a co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, told Shah, “These days it is all about alleviating fears.” 

Good luck out there, and stay in touch. If you have ideas or best practices for reopening safely that you’d like to share with others in the food and beverage trade, please tell us at hunter@foodandwine.com.

As always, be safe and stay well. 

Warmly,

Hunter Lewis, Editor in Chief

What You Need to Know Before Reopening Your Restaurant, According to Chefs Who Have Done It Twice

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As states start to reopen, restaurants across the country are having to reconfigure and reconsider systems and service in front and back of the house to keep staff and customers safe. It’s a balancing act that requires staying up to date on the latest information coming out of the CDC as well as state guidelines, educating staff and guests and implementing new measures to keep everyone safe all while bringing in enough money to stay open. Read More.

Hospitality When Restaurants Can't Be Hospitable

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The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered traditional models of hospitality impossible. Virtually overnight, restaurants were forced to reimagine what hospitality looks like. Here’s how restaurants are adapting. Read More.

Don't Reopen Your Restaurant Until You Read This

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Restaurant lawyer Jasmine Moy on the pivots, pitfalls, and possibilities of reopening restaurants in the wake of COVID-10. Read More.

Don't Expect Restaurants to Be Normal Right Now

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In a few years when we think back to 2020 and the pandemic, most of us are going to remember loneliness, the loss of life, hand sanitizer, and the lack of toilet paper. Hopefully, we also will be able to recall how, over the course of months in lockdown, we learned to be grateful for things that we had long taken for granted. Maybe the bar has been lowered for eating out in a restaurant. Maybe the best thing about going out to eat isn’t taking a photo of your cheeseburger for Instagram, but it’s the straightforward act of sharing a meal with someone you care about. Read More.

An Open Letter to Our Dining Community

tolgart / Getty Images

What do you miss most about restaurants? For us as owners, it’s the thrum of the room; the steady rhythm of conviviality. After three months staring at an empty dining room, we miss the easy banter with our regulars, the grins on your faces as you bite into something delicious, the gratitude you give us for providing some respite in your day. We miss our community.  Read More.

What It’s Like to Work In a Restaurant Right Now, According to Restaurant Workers

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We spoke with dozens of restaurant workers, from servers and managers to executive chefs and line cooks, to get a feel for what it’s really like to work in a reopened restaurant right now. Read More.

How to Make Sure Your Restaurant Is Welcoming to Everyone

mavoimages / Adobe Stock

As restaurants reopen, what can owners and managers do to ensure their staff are not tasked with enforcing policies that are inherently racist? Start with these steps, and make them a non-negotiable part of your team’s culture. Read More.

6 Things Chefs Are Doing to Take Care of Their Staffs as Restaurants Reopen

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As restaurants across the country eagerly welcome guests back into their patios, backyards, and dining rooms after months of COVID-19 related closures, it’s clear that chefs are taking hygiene precautions seriously. While gloves, masks, and temperature checks are absolutely critical for safely reopening dining rooms, we asked hospitality pros to share some of the measures they’ve taken to care for their staff’s emotional and mental health. Read More.

Restaurant Tech Can’t Wait for Us to Dine Out Again

Inti St Clair / Getty Images

After months of outcry over unjust fees that delivery apps have reaped from restaurants during COVID-19, tech companies might seem like an unlikely ally as establishments cautiously welcome guests back into their patios, parking lots, and dining rooms. But reservation and point-of-service platforms like OpenTable, Tock, SevenRooms, and Toast are racing one another to roll out features that position themselves as the must-have toolkit for operators looking to navigate the new normal. Read More.

Concert Venues Face the Music as Live Performances Are Canceled Indefinitely

Courtesy of Michael Dorf

Today, many artists are hungry to perform and their fans are ravenous to see them play. So we are working hard, trying to find a way to make that happen. Can we set up a room with a legal capacity of 1,000 in order to safely bring in 300 people with some social distancing, hospital-grade sanitizing, safety protections and protocols for staff and audience, and put on a show that can provide even limited income for everyone and a great time for the audience? Read More.

'More Than a Trend': Black-Owned Restaurants Still Need Your Support

Twisted Soul

“A lot of Black restaurants are frequented by Black people,” Walker said. “With this new interest in supporting Black businesses, we’re seeing more Caucasian and other non-Black people wanting to join the party. I hope that does not change, because we support all other races. That would be a tremendous impact and gain to these businesses.” Read More.

I'm Too Anxious to Eat at Restaurants Right Now

Noam Galai / Getty Images

I can control my own behavior and I trust the safety standards of restaurant workers because the protocols come to them as naturally as breathing (pre-pandemic, at least), but the diners are the wild cards that keep my brain and guts on constant shuffle. Outdoor dining has resumed in New York City and I find myself crossing the street to avoid the sight and sounds of unmasked diners, even as I envy them. Read More.

We Should All Be Empathetic to Restaurant Workers, Especially Now

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We are being forced to confront a new reality: What does it mean to care for not only ourselves but for unseen strangers embedded deep in the trenches of our daily routines? How can we rebuild and reimagine food systems in the months and years to come with the choices we make in this immediate and critical moment? We are being commanded to lead with compassion and we must demand that our elected leaders govern with care. Read More.

How I'm Keeping My Restaurant's Dream Alive in Nightmare Times

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Where do we draw the line between the inherent desire to be hospitality professionals who make our guests happy, and the minimum requirement of what we need monetarily to survive as a business? Read More.