John Girvan, Manager at catering supplier Alliance Online Ireland (www.allianceonline.ie), shares some ideas that will help you maximise the number of covers in your restaurant while keeping everyone safe.
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Now that are continuiing with Phase Three of Ireland's Roadmap for Re-opening, the hospitality industry is starting to open up again. So, restaurant owners are no doubt going to be keen to try and maximise the number of customers you can serve to try and make up for all that lost time and revenue. In this article, I'll share five ways you can increase the number of covers you can accommodate, while also following social distancing guidelines and keeping your staff and diners safe.
Extending your opening hours
Many restaurants are now serving half or even a quarter of their usual capacity at any given time, and this can really take a toll on their bottom line. One solution to this problem is extending your opening hours to allow you to serve more customers while maintaining proper social distancing. Of course, if you do decide to go down this route, remember to think about how the terms of any licences might be affected — you may not be able to serve alcohol at certain times, for instance.
Set time limits for each party
If longer opening hours aren’t a feasible option for your business, you could look at implementing a time limit for each cover, instead. In practice, this will mean informing every party that they will be required to vacate their table in a certain amount of time when they make their booking, usually around 1–1.5 hours, depending on how quickly you can usually serve your diners.
Of course, the main challenge here will be enforcing that time limit, which may mean asking diners to leave before they feel ready. But, if you're confident that your staff and kitchen can turn each cover around in the time limit, this is well worth considering. Remember that you'll need to allow time between each booking to clean and disinfect each table.
Adding additional indoor space
It might sound obvious, but the more floorspace you have, the more covers you'll be able to seat safely. So, if you’re in a position to make some major changes to your premises, you could look at extending your seating areas by refurbishing an area that's currently used for something else, like a storage room or staff area. If you have very high ceilings, adding a mezzanine floor can also be great way to make use of dead space. Naturally, these options will require a major upfront investment, but they will continue to be useful long after the pandemic has ended. So, it's certainly something to consider.
Invest in outside dining
One silver living of the pandemic has been that it's mainly taking place in summertime, meaning that restaurants can make the most of any outside seating areas to accommodate more guests. So, if you’re lucky enough to have an outside seating area, now's certainly the time to invest in it. Adding an awning or other rain-proof covering will ensure the space is usable in wet weather, meaning you won't be limited to your inside dining area on rainy days. Assuming social distancing measures continue into the autumn, it may also be worth looking at installing some patio heaters, to make the space usable in cooler temperatures.
Rearranging dining areas and adding safety features
Having adaptable seating can help you to ensure that you're making the most of the space that you have. For instance, if you only have four- or six-seater tables in your dining area currently, then investing in smaller two-seater tables that can be re-arranged to suit groups of every size will allow you to fit more covers in total. It also ensures that you don't have small groups of just two or three diners taking up tables that could be used to serve larger — and more lucrative — groups.
There's no doubt that these are challenging times for the hospitality industry. But, if you’re creative and adaptable, you can find ways to serve as many covers as possible while still adhering to social distancing rules.