The return of dine-in operations in areas under modified general community quarantine has been met with a strict set of guidelines by the Department of Trade and Industry. The new normal has completely altered the foodservice industry, especially the nature of in-house dining. With the return of regular restaurant hours, how are you preparing your team to get back to business as usual?

“We’ve been opening our stores for almost a month now for the exact reason that we wanted to establish and test out all the new protocols and procedures so that come June 15, we are ready for dine-in [operations]. Plus we are only doing 30 percent capacity so it won’t be a problem of handling, it’s a matter of handling it in the new norm,” says Eric Dee, chief operating officer of Foodee Global Concepts, the group behind prominent brands like Tim Ho Wan, Mesa, Hawker Chan and Sunnies Cafe.

Returning to work

Businesses have to strategize the return-to-work volume of employees, especially that kitchen protocols are already in place, and it would depend on the capacity of restaurants to accommodate the right number of employees given the limits to observe social distancing in the front and back of house.

Dee says that they have naturally lost some workers due to pandemic-related reasons such as employees living in provinces who weren’t able to report for work for fear of contracting the virus. Aside from workforce issues, the status of finances must also be monitored when planning to reopen. Dee’s group was able to establish budgets and because of the significant drop in revenue, the costs must drop as well. 

“We aren’t in this anymore to make money. It’s really about helping the economy start up. All we want now is to survive, manage our costs and make our company more optimized for the new norm,” he says.

Following standards and protocols

More than anything, consumers rest their trust in establishments that implement strict health and safety standards. Dee’s chain of restaurants have established their own set of protocols and safety procedures “above and beyond” the stated guidelines by the government. It’s crucial that teams are knowledgeable on the virus and its prevention so everyone is alert when they’re already in the field. Utilizing technology is also vital to make things seamless and convenient for both diners and staff.

“On top of pre-existing protocols, we have used sanitation booths, ultra-violet (UV) disinfected personal protective equipment and face masks with goggles as well as UV in all our cutleries and tables for disinfecting. There are definitely costs incurred for profit that you are unsure of. But, we do what we have to do to survive and gain back [the] consumers’ confidence,” explains Dee.

And on the subject of dining in a mall setting versus a standalone location with outdoor seating, Dee says they’re the same unless a vaccine is finally created. Fear will settle in the public consciousness for a long time but if anything, he believes that this attempt to share the sentiments of consumers and translate the new norms into operation should go beyond this crisis.

“If you don’t invest in safety, you won’t get consumer confidence back. It’s necessary that’s why it’s been difficult because our industry now requires new investment for safety with unsure results. So, we hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” says Dee.

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