Wednesday, 20th May 2020 | Management

Ready to re-open: Best practices for restaurants

As the number of COVID-19 infections declines across Canada, provincial governments are beginning to implement phased reopening. Read on for the best practices you should follow to ensure everyone’s health and safety as you reopen.

As the number of COVID-19 infections declines across Canada, provincial governments are beginning to implement phased reopening. This hopeful step has restaurants across the nation beginning to prepare, be it mentally or physically. Given that this is new territory for everyone, what should the preparations entail? Read on for the best practices you should follow to ensure everyone’s health and safety as you reopen your restaurant.

1. Document a reopening plan and train your staff

A safe and seamless re-opening depends on communicating and implementing the very best safety measures across your entire operation. Lessening restrictions depends on tightening precautions and that will require the participation of all management and staff. Don’t leave things to chance. Even “obvious” measures might be overlooked in the chaos of a relaunch. Write down your plan in detail, including all safety precautions, and communicate your expectations to everyone in your organization. Revise and brief your staff as required.

  • Write down your plan
  • Train all staff on safety measures
  • Revise and re-train as necessary

2. Make a physical distancing clear and easy

If you had an incorrect idea of what six feet (or two metres) was before COVID-19, you’re not alone. People don’t typically measure their personal space this way and it can be hard to gauge distance on-the-fly. Before you welcome customers back into your restaurant, use tape to mark six-foot intervals on your floor and indicate the flow of traffic with arrows. If possible, move furniture like booths or table apart and install physical barriers or close off those areas that are too close together. Post signage at the door and inside reminding people of physical distancing requirements and restrict the number of people allowed inside at once.

  • Post signs
  • Mark floors and traffic flow
  • Move or block off seating areas

Most kitchens are fairly tight quarters to begin with. Minimize physical interaction by setting up staggered task stations as possibly creating additional shifts to reduce the need for so many people in the kitchen at one time. Mark intervals on the floor as a reminder, and make sure customers and delivery drivers are kept separate from the cooking areas.

  • Mark floors
  • Create staggered stations
  • Restrict access

3. Go minimalist

Once customers return, there are a few adjustments you can make to enhance safety. If possible, prop open exterior doors for fresh air and interior doors to reduce surfaces that require touch. Remove menus, flowers, condiments, and cutlery from the tables and instead provide them once customers are seated. Use technology for remote ordering and table selection, and reduce person-to-person contact with electronic payment.

  • Prop open doors
  • Remove table-top items and provide on an as-needed basis
  • Use technology

4. Keep it clean

Those in the restaurant business should already be familiar with sanitation protocols but during COVID-19 these protections will have to be intensified. Here’s a step-by-step checklist that should help you establish and maintain a spotless restaurant.

  • Do a deep and complete clean of the entire establishment prior to re-opening
  • Clean the credit card machines, cash register, headsets, or other shared equipment
  • Establish and record an updated cleaning schedule especially for high-traffic areas like the washrooms, counters, and door handles
  • Clean tables between every seating
  • Remove and sanitize condiment containers, menus, or other tabletop items between customers
  • Make hand sanitizer available at the door, on tables, and at the cash
  • Use only approved disinfectants

5. Health and hygiene

Alongside the signs about physical distancing, post a notice explaining that customers showing signs of COVID-19 (fever, runny nose, or cough) may be refused entry to your establishment.

Your employees will need to maintain extremely high health and hygiene standards. These best practices will help your day-to-day operations:

  • Stagger start times
  • Implement health check screening at the start of every shift and send sick employees home
  • Fully train all staff on how and when to wash hands, how to maintain physical distancing, and to avoid touching their faces
  • Provide lockers or sealed bags for personal items
  • Provide PPE and gloves when applicable
  • Make hand sanitizer available at the door, on tables, and at the cash
  • Establish a point person for every shift to ensure all protocols are being followed

Restaurants and other businesses across Canada are starting the slow process of re-opening. Check this Restaurants Canada Reopening Tracker to determine the rules for your region and then proceed following these best practices for a successful and safe transition.

 

Read Also

Video marketing for small businesses

As commerce moves increasingly online, small businesses are looking for ways to get an edge on their competition and video marketing is a promising strategy. Take a look at these numbers: According to Google, YouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year olds in an average week than all cable TV networks—combined. And it’s more than reach. Video is a strong medium for selling, too. In a 2020 report by Wyzowl, 84% of respondents said they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.

The data is there. It’s clear that video has a place in marketing small businesses, but effective implementation is another thing entirely. If you’re already using video, do you have the resources and know-how to execute it effectively? And if you’re not, why not? In this article, we’ll share some ideas and best practices for getting the most out of video marketing. Types of videos to consider As a visual medium, video has very few restrictions. If you can tell a story visually, you can tell it on video. That said, your marketing clip may not be the best place to try out an avant-garde approach. Luckily, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. These 9 types of video are tried and tested to get you the views and conversions you’re after.

Product overview

These short videos are the most common type of video marketing out there. Running around 90 seconds, a product overview shows the main elements and benefits of your product or service. Most television ads are product overviews. When shooting this kind of video, keep things short and sweet.

Teasers

Think of a teaser video as an amuse bouche for your upcoming product or event. As short as a couple of seconds, the teaser video is designed to pique the interest of your viewers, exciting and engaging them. As an example, imagine you own a kitchen supply shop and you have a new, imported pepper mill coming in. To market this, you could film a teaser with just an up-close glimpse of the grinder plates in action. You could even tie in a contest by having your audience guess the appliance. The idea of a teaser is to arouse interest and foster engagement.

Explainers

Similar to product overviews, explainers are frequently animated spots that break down products that would be difficult to demonstrate otherwise. If you have a complex or virtual product to sell, you might consider an explainer.

Livestreaming

Livestreaming videos are interactive and, due to their availability on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, free and extremely easy to set up. When you livestream you can speak to your audience directly and they can respond to you in the comments section. This is a live medium, so it’s important to make sure you have help with moderation but livestreaming can be the perfect way to share a Q&A or an event. You can showcase your expertise while making your viewers feel like they’ve had an intimate interaction.

Vlogs

Video blogs, or vlogs, are video-based posts designed to inform or educate. They’re suitable for how-tos, tips, or for information that breaks down easily into smaller chunks.

Tutorials

If you’re trying to show someone something more complex than suitable for a vlog, a video tutorial may work well. For example, let’s say you own a photography shop and want to share how to replace your LCD screen on a certain camera. A video tutorial will work perfectly. For computer-based tutorials, the content could be as simple as recording what you’re doing on your own screen.

Milestone or leadership announcement

If your business has reached a new milestone or has had a change in leadership, you could put out a press release and hope it gets read. Or, you could produce a video that captures behind-the-scenes content and showcases the personalities of the people involved. This is your chance to draw your viewers in and make them feel that they’re getting to see what your company is all about. Milestone videos can also help bridge the gap created by COVID and make your viewers feel connected to you and your business.

Contest or promotion

Running a contest or promotion is an established marketing tactic and using video only makes it stronger. As contests have closing dates, it’s critical to get the video shot well in advance.

Webinar or interview

Like a panel at a conference, a webinar or interview can educate and inform your viewers. Make sure you’ve selected a quiet space with a visually appealing background, and that your interviewer is knowledgeable and comfortable in their role. Webinars work well where the buying process is complex or lengthy.

As you can see, no matter your purpose or type of information, there’s a style of video for it. Start simply by running a livestream event or a useful tutorial and work your way up to the more expert applications.

 

Marketing

Mitigate risk and potential cash flow issues with a business line of credit

Small business owners know that sometimes businesses need cash. Sometimes they need it fast. Liquidity is a lifeline for small businesses, and owners need to make sure they have the tools in place for every eventuality. A business line of credit is a strong defence against volatility, emergencies, or simple fluctuations, extending a continuous option of cash liquidity so that cash flow never becomes a problem. Read on for more about business lines of credit, how they work, and whether your small business would benefit from a line of credit.

What is a business line of credit and why would you use one?

Just like a personal line of credit, a business line of credit is a loan that gets you access to capital that you can use to meet your needs. For small businesses, these needs might be purchasing inventory, replacing or repairing equipment, renovations, paying off unexpected expenses, or other short-term cash flow gaps. Cash flow allows you to be nimble and make decisions quickly. With a business line of credit, you can simply take out an advance on a pre-approved amount with its own predetermined repayment plan to meet your short-term needs.

A business line of credit from iCapital is an unsecured line of credit with pre-negotiated interest rates and repayment terms. With this product, you can access any amount of money up to your limit on an as-needed basis. And, when you take out a business line of credit with iCapital, our software will automatically send a notification when you become eligible for credit limit increases so you’ll always have up-to-date information on your available cash flow. If you’re interested in a business line of credit, simply apply online with your bank statements and your application will be reviewed on the same day. You can expect funding in 24 hours or less.

Alternatives to a business line of credit

A business line of credit is not the only product you can use to ensure you have access to cash flow for your business. Other products include:

  • Term loan
    With a term loan, you repay daily or weekly over a set term. There is no interest rate but rather a predetermined fee negotiated by you and the lender, based on your credit score, length of time in business, and other factors. This type of product might work well for a single unforeseen expense such as replacing broken equipment.
     
  • Merchant cash advance
    Also, a one-time loan product, a merchant cash advance is perfect for those in retail, hospitality, or food service-type businesses. Rather than having a set repayment amount, you repay based on a percentage of the daily sales transacted through your credit/debit machine. This means that you can get much-needed cash flow without worrying about closures or slow seasons.
     
  • Secured business loan
    With collateral (typically property), you can get a business loan to use toward your expenses. As a secured product, you may be able to negotiate lower interest rates and longer repayment terms.

Cash flow is absolutely vital for small businesses and it can be hard to keep on hand. Business loans, cash advances, term loans, and lines of credit are all powerful products to help you keep your business running smoothly. Applying for a business line of credit will ensure you can enjoy the peace of mind knowing that you have access to a pre-approved amount, should the need arise.

Small business financing Canada ,Business loans for bad credit ,Management

Better business & customer service in 2021

As 2021 grows closer, many small business owners are making plans with an eye towards rebounding from a year disrupted by the pandemic. Now is the time to plan, but COVID-19 is really only one of many variables impacting small businesses right now. The pandemic affected how products and services were offered and delivered, and will have implications well into 2021. But savvy business owners are also planning against other market forces like the shift to big box stores and the uber-fast delivery expectations set by Amazon Prime. As you build your new year’s strategy, consider these ideas to make your business stronger in 2021.
 

Make purchases and delivery easier—for everyone

According to web registrar GoDaddy, “Roughly half of those [businesses] surveyed had a website or active social media account before the pandemic hit. That number has almost doubled.” Businesses who want to maintain or grow during COVID-19 are flocking to online and the next big shift is going to be the adoption of platforms that do everything in one place: sales, email communication, and even marketing.

By undergoing a digital transformation, small businesses can improve their own system while continuing to offer top-notch customer service—and it’s not as complicated as you might think. Take for example, Coffee Tree Roastery, a small shop in Toronto’s West End that, as a response to the COVID-19 retail shut downs, began selling online and offering local delivery or pick-up. They chose the Canadian platform Shopify, which allows them to manage everything from online orders and payments, to in-store POP transactions with one system. For their customers, this represents an easy way to order and pay 24/7.

Some businesses are new to being online, while others are ready to adopt better digital tools. Wherever your business is in regards to your digital presence, now is the time to invest in online.

Go all-in on customer service

It’s tough to compete with the lightning fast delivery times of Amazon Prime or the rock bottom prices offered by some big box stores. Our advice? Don’t. Cultivate your advantage where the giant retailers can’t compete—the personal touch.

You’ve already taken steps towards an online platform so your customers receive the fast and easy ordering process they deserve. Next, figure out what more you can do to make shopping with you pleasant, stress-free, and perhaps even memorable. Free local deliveries, discounts for in-store pick-up, and personalized invitations on key dates like birthdays or anniversaries are all terrific ideas.

Be memorable

Find ways to stand out beyond your customer service efforts, too. Take 15 minutes with your team to brainstorm strategies that make your product or brand memorable, with an added bonus for “feel good” touches. Even if you’re only allowing curb-side pick-ups, consider putting out a small hot apple cider to warm up your customers. Include a hand-written note on the bag for the personal touch. Or, tuck a little freebie like a candy cane or chocolate into the order.

Earn a loyal following

Building your brand is about more than just awareness. You want to earn your customers’ loyalty. Think about ways you can inspire your customers to not only return for more of your product or services, but also recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues.

Tap into what matters. For example, if your customers value their local shops, find ways to reinforce this like giving them a branded reusable shopping bag. Remember your customers’ names and listen when they tell you about their lives. Recalling their order or their children’s names will go a long way to making them feel special. Encourage repeat customers with VIP offers or discounts. Positive interactions are an incredibly powerful advertisement for your business.

There are many challenges facing small businesses as we roll into 2021, but there’s no shortage of pathways to success. Customers want what they’ve always wanted—fast and easy ordering, a pleasant experience, and a personal touch. COVID-19 has caused notable changes in the shopping experience, but good service is always appreciated, even from six feet away.

Small business financing Canada ,Management

5 ideas for stimulating sales through this pandemic winter

For Canadian small business owners, the approach of winter without a COVID vaccine holds some uncertainty. Businesses that have managed to adapt and pivot during the first stages of the pandemic face another slow season—this is especially true for those in areas retreating back into stage 2 restrictions. With more time at home, people appear to be spending more time on social media, particularly on YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn. (Facebook has always had strong usage rates.) Whether it’s to connect with friends and family virtually, to search for jobs, or to enjoy online diversions, it’s clear Canadians are taking to social media. This is an opportunity for Canadian small business owners. Here are 5 fresh ideas to connect with buyers, increase awareness of the business and products/services, and deepen loyalty using social media.

#1. Make ‘em laugh

Canadians are under a tremendous amount of pressure. If you can engage your followers in a fun or funny way, you’ll have a good chance of not only keeping their attention but also leaving them with a positive feeling about your company. Skip cold corporate speak if favour of messaging with a light and relatable tone. Puns and in-jokes are great but make sure your humour is relatable and uncontroversial. 

#2. Run a contest 

Who doesn’t like the chance to win something? Engage your audience with a contest like this one by SAOR Studio that’s helping its members to stick to their exercise regime with a workout bingo. The game is proving to be almost as much fun as a night out at the bingo hall—members are even posting their progress on social media. The big prize? Complete a line and receive 15% off on gym merchandise—a win-win.

3. Use livestreams

Nothing stops the runway for Canadian fashion brand Miik. Using Instagram and Facebook Live, the Toronto-based clothier has taken the catwalk digital and now customers can tune in for virtual viewings and Q&As with the owners. Borrow this strategy to host industry “shows'' or to launch new products.

4. Post often

Even if you’re open for foot traffic, people are increasingly hesitant to be out and about, so posting regularly is more important than ever. Get creative with your content so you don’t give your customers social media fatigue. Consider the Halifax Thunderbirds. While this Canadian lacrosse team is side-lined, they’re keeping their audience entertained and engaged with squad news, fan pictures, and anecdotes from past matches. 

The National Ballet of Canada is taking a similar tack by sharing behind-the-scenes posts of dancers in their homes and offering free, live virtual ballet classes and performances. The same strategy that works for athletes and performers can build relationships with retailers. Edmonton-based New Classics uses their Instagram to showcase their ethically crafted and environmentally conscious slow fashion items so customers can window shop from their couch before ordering online.

5. Be inspiring

Tone is everything and these days Canadians are looking for brands that make them feel good. Search out and post thoughtful and inspirational (but not saccharine) statements and ideas that show off your brand voice. Take for example, Mail Chimp, the marketing platform. They’ve peppered their feed with lovely, simple animations with positive, encouraging phrases like "It feels good to put something back into the world" and "Making the most of it sometimes requires a little something extra." Choose statements that are in line with your brand voice and couch them in your own design.

Canadian small businesses needn’t fear the coming cold months. With the right social media strategy and outreach, they can meet their customers where they are—in their comfy clothes, at home.

Marketing

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