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Planning to reopen

Once we’ve had confirmation that venues can start to reopen, there will, no doubt, be a flurry of activity as people rush to get back to business. You can get ahead of this inevitable rush by having a proper plan in place on how to manage the reopening.

Review government guidance

Carry out any maintenance

Take stock of your business

Plan how your staff will return

Re-engage with your suppliers



Review government guidance

Firstly, be sure to take a look the latest government guidance. Review the information in full and determine the steps you need to take. The government is asking businesses to put in place 'COVID-19 Secure' safety measures which you will need to adhere to.


Carry out maintenance work

Arrange and schedule any planned maintenance work that has been missed, give particular thought to pest control checks and safety testing of kitchen equipment, elevators and air conditioning. Ask if there is anything you need to source and install ahead of reopening such as protective screens or any repairs that can be made while your venue is still closed.


Take stock of your business

Given the significant disruption, it goes without saying that you will need to rework your plans for the year and embrace a leaner operation. Customer habits will take some time to return to normal, and a busy first few weeks back may mask a longer-term resistance to close contact with others.

Examine how your business was performing before the crisis. Ask yourself what was working well and what wasn't. Does something you're now doing have the potential to continue after the lockdown has come to an end? Perhaps you've had success with home delivery or recipe boxes, or maybe you've just enjoyed working from your kitchen table!

Cast your mind forward to what the industry will look like over the next year. Ask what your business will need to do to recoup your cash flow quickly. Break down the required changes into manageable steps and put a plan to paper. Explore how you can reduce the costs of your day-to-day operations. Review your stock management processes and portion control to see if you could make savings. Take a second look at your food and drink menu and ask if you're focusing enough on products that deliver healthy margins. Could you slim down the food and drinks you offer to focus on higher-margin products and simultaneously reduce wastage?

The key challenge for operators over the next year will be managing and controlling costs. Making changes that will affect the customer experience, such as using cheaper ingredients or reducing staffing, should be avoided if possible. Instead, you could look at your spending on stock, utilities and goods not for resale to see if there are savings that could be made here. Consider if altering opening hours could save you, or make you money if footfall changes, and if any planned costs can be postponed for an extended period.


Plan the return of staff

If you're using the furlough scheme, you'll be able to continue to make use of this scheme until the end of October. From July the scheme allows for part time work, giving you more options on how you bring staff back. Start to consider the level of staffing you'll need and how you will structure the return of staff - it may be prudent to stagger the return of your team as demand increases and the 'new normal' becomes clearer.

Predicting demand will be difficult. The first few weeks and months will likely see fluctuating sales that won't be very easy to predict. Labour optimisation and forecasting software may not be able to give accurate figures. As such, you may need to rely on old fashioned forecasting methods for those first few weeks as systems begin to calibrate. City centre and tourist-reliant venues will have to take an expected drop in footfall into account when judging how busy they will be.

Many employees will have taken time during the lockdown to assess their career plans and future development. Other team members may have experienced a loss or may be concerned about their wellbeing and that of their loved ones. Do take the time to chat with each staff member to establish how they feel and work with them to find the best way for them to return to work. The CIPD has put together a guide for employers on bringing staff back from furlough.


Re-engage with your suppliers

Contact your suppliers to ensure that they open, or planning to open, and will be able to process your orders. Matthew Clark has remained open throughout this time and has secured availability on key products. Some of your suppliers may have some restrictions on what they can do. Establish any potential limitations on what you can order and get a confirmation on your expected delivery dates. Work to plug any gaps and ensure you have what you need to reopen, particularly cleaning materials, tissue, sanitisers and soap.