How to Give Your Restaurant Employees Structure in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Woman waitress with cup in face mask and gloves in cafe. Local business

You’ve been waiting and hoping to open your restaurant for full service dining-in, and now (depending on your state), you finally can! It’s likely you’ve already made changes to your layout to accommodate social distancing requirements and added signage and hand sanitizer to make your customers more comfortable. 

But what about your employees? 

You may have employees that have been with you for 20 years and others that just started at the beginning of this year. This can be a confusing time when it comes to going back to work, regardless of tenure. There are new rules, expectations, and policies employees need to adapt to. So how can you make this as smooth of a transition as possible for them? 

Be Clear with Expectations

Your employees are most likely familiar with CDC requirements for their personal lives but you need to be clear with your expectations of them while they are at work. 

Here are a few jumping off points to consider for setting new expectations for employees and their wellbeing: 

  • What are your mask requirements while they are at work?
  • Will you require temperature checks at the beginning of shifts?
  • What additional cleaning and sanitization will employees be required to perform?
  • How will the change in capacity (if applicable) change shift schedules?
  • What changes are you making to your sick day policy to keep employees from coming in?
  • What is your plan if an employee tests positive for COVID-19? 

These are not easiest questions to answer but they should be addressed transparently with employees to provide a flexible structure. 

Improve the Way You Communicate

You’ll want to communicate these new expectations, policies, and plans in the most efficient way possible. If you have a few different shifts happening where all your employees are rarely together, you will need to create a central place for information. Whether you want to utilize Google Drive, emails, or a break room bulletin board for documents, it’s important to have the changes in an accessible location for everyone. 

And because changes may be made on the fly, make a call or text tree to disseminate last minute information quickly. These methods are better for short-form communication where not as much can get lost in translation. With so much information (both factual and false) floating around, more communication is better than less.. 

Have Hands-On Training to Demonstrate Changes

It’s likely you’ve changed the “flow” of how waiting on a table goes when you throw social distancing requirements into the mix. Have a walk-through before you open as old or new employees start back to help them get better acquainted with any changes you plan on making. Point out anything that differs in an employees’ shift or that they’ll need to know for customer interactions: new signage, sanitization products, traffic patterns, etc.

Walking your employees through the changes also gives you the chance to test out the feasibility of your plans, before customers enter the picture. The visual you can give employees in a walk-through like this can be far more effective than meeting after meeting. 

Give Flexible Feedback

Your employees are probably anxious to get back to more regular work, but with all of these changes to their regular shift, mistakes are bound to happen! Give as much positive and constructive feedback as you can to employees. Obviously, you want to take the time to educate an employee when they do something incorrectly, but it’s important to remember this is a time of great uncertainty and most individuals are doing their best to cope in this pandemic. 

Delivering feedback is essential reinforcement not only in this climate, but a part of successful “normal” working environments as well. 

Through clear expectations, improved communication methods, hands-on training, and feedback, you can help guide your restaurant employees through the numerous changes in your business. The more educated your waitstaff is going forward can continue a positive work environment, even during uncertain times such as these. 

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