Best Practices for Reopening Restaurants, Hotels, and Other Hospitality Sectors

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic—and during any resurgence—the hospitality industry needs to take particular care to ensure that guests feel comfortable and stay safe. That means investing in products geared toward increasing safety as well as encouraging patronage. 

Here are some tips sourced from experts in crowd control, marketing, and beyond to help you reopen with confidence – and stay open for the foreseeable future.

Creating Temporary Outdoor Dining Areas

Hospitality sector after Covid-19 Reopen

Many restaurants will need to expand their dining areas into parking lots and streets. That means they’ll need to employ best practices normally reserved for outdoor festivals and construction sites. Here are some thoughts:

Parking Lot Seating

If you’re extending your dining area into your parking lot, investing in crowd control products is likely essential. The goal is to protect guests from vehicles with high-visibility water-filled barriers, and steel barricades can demarcate the other areas. 

Even when the requirement for the additional seating diminishes, consider the potential of excess space going forward. You could host events, like outdoor music shows, holiday gatherings, and sports, or even put on a fundraiser. The possibilities are endless, and in the meantime, you can expand your dining space while staying in compliance.


If you’re able to extend your patio dining into the street, then water-filled barriers are essential. They’re far more affordable than concrete barriers, and they come in a handful of different colors. However, renting (instead of buying) plastic barriers is probably the best move, as we’ll be going back to the sidewalk in the near future.

We also recommend prioritizing high visibility rather than aesthetics. While your brand colors may be green or blue, bright white or orange Jersey style barriers are going to keep your customers safer.

One-Way Entrances and Exits

Outdoor areas are an easy place to implement one-direction paths. And this is a strongly recommended practice in preventing the spread of disease

Having the same entrance and exit makes social distancing improbable if not impossible, whereas having a pointed flow can help people maintain the recommended six feet of space. You’ll also want a separate entry and exit for staff, like servers and bussers. 

Just be sure to determine the exits before the water-filled barriers are filled. It’s a huge pain to adjust after it’s too late!

A-Frame Sign For Hospitality Reopen

Custom Safety Signage

This is where you can balance a commitment to safety with a love for a good looking storefront. Custom safety signage is an opportunity for you to make sure everyone is on the same page, but you can still center the copy around your brand voice. You’re also able to incorporate your brand colors and logo.

A great example of this is a custom A Frame Sign. Much like it’s used to display specials, happy hour times, or clever slogans, you can use it for COVID-19 safety messaging. We have a discounted coronavirus A Frame available at the SONCO store to help fight the spread. View it here.

It also may be important to note that the SONCO design team has extensive experience with monetizing most types of crowd control and perimeter security products. They can either concept something from scratch or utilize your existing files as well.

Affordable Advertisement Ideas

It’s safe to assume that many people won’t know that your restaurant, hotel, or casino is open for business. That means you’ll need to make sure passing cars get the message, and that doesn’t necessarily require erecting a billboard.

Instead, consider investing in a temporary fence panel with a custom banner. For around $200, you can have a sign that lets folks know that you’re accepting customers with COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Another option is to utilize custom flags for roadside advertising. A banner over the front door can go a long way as well. The important point is that you want to utilize every bit of free space to ensure that all potential customers know your doors are open.

No matter what type of hospitality business you have, getting the word out is going to be essential, especially when you’ve invested in opening safely. Get in touch with the SONCO design team to make it happen today.

Maintaining Social Distance Indoors

We’ve been primarily focused on safety and messaging outdoors. But the vast majority of businesses will need to make changes to their interiors to stay in compliance, avoid any liability, and keep customers and staff as safe as possible.

Close Dance Floors, Billiard Rooms, Etc.

Any area that encourages unnecessary gathering in tightly packed quarters should be closed down until it’s safe to gather in large groups. Easy examples include dance floors and karaoke rooms, but there are countless possibilities. 

Many states relaxing their stay at home orders and allowing restaurants to have customers are limiting tables to parties of six. The same applies to standing room areas, and they should be closed off accordingly. Otherwise, it could encourage unsafe behavior.

Eliminate Bar Seating

It’s not possible for a bartender to maintain six feet of space from folks sitting along the bar. And a plastic or glass divider would make bartenders unable to serve them.

You could, however, potentially install dividers and serve people along the bar if that’s possible. However, few bars will be able to accommodate much seating if six feet of social distancing is to be maintained. The most likely scenario is that closing bar seating down altogether makes the most sense.

No Congregating in Break Rooms or in the Back

Employees will need to know how important it is to keep congregating to a bare minimum. That means only coming into close proximity if and when it’s necessary. And crowding in the break rooms or in the back (smoking areas, for example) do not constitute a necessity.

For some businesses, like an average restaurant, simply letting people know will suffice. For major operations like a casino resort, signage will be necessary.

It’s also important to not let customers congregate while waiting for a table. Send them a text when their table is ready, or switch to reservations-only dining.

Reorganize Shift and Break Schedules

If people can feasibly arrive in 15-minute (or more) intervals, that can be a great way to ensure no one arrives at exactly the same time. A shift that may have begun for everyone at 9 AM in the past might need to change to 8:30 AM until 9:30 AM.

In the same vein, dismissals can be reorganized to ensure employees don’t leave en masse. If you’re managing a restaurant, you could have people close out tables and clock out a bit sooner than others on shift. If that means some stay unduly late or unduly early, dismissals can rotate depending on the dynamics of your staff.

Facilitate Screenings

Before employees are able to clock in, they should answer some essential screening questions to reduce the chances that they might be infected. This is the bare minimum way that businesses are trying to reduce the chance of infection among their employees and customers.

Questions include:

  1. Do you have any COVID-19 related symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath? 
  2. In the past two weeks, have you been within six feet of an infected or symptomatic person?
  3. In the past two weeks, have your travel habits extended beyond essential tasks?
  4. Is anyone in your household in quarantine due to potential or actual exposure to COVID-19?

If the answer is yes to any of those questions, it’s safest to send them home. That’s why having trained, backup staff can go a long way in ensuring your business remains operational. Otherwise, you or family members will have to step in, and that can be especially draining if that was already required before the initial reopenings began.

If possible, temperature screenings should also be implemented. While probably not a possibility for smaller restaurants, it’s crucial for large businesses like hotels and casinos.

Active and Vigorous Personal Sanitation

Thankfully, the hospitality industry already prioritizes sanitation more so than all other industries except for healthcare. But the addition of masks and the need for servers and bartenders to wear gloves will be a bit of a change of pace.

Still, it’d be hard to argue that these measures would have been a bad idea before all this happened. While it would have seemed over the top, is it possible for those dealing with food to be overly cautious? Just compensate with the friendliest customer service they’ve ever experienced!

Keeping the Venue Clean

This is another area where restaurants and hotels are ahead of the curve. But again, particularly strong diligence is required. You’ll need to clean high-traffic areas more often than ever before, and management will need to stay on top of employees following best practices. It just takes one careless action to spread salmonella, and the same goes for COVID-19.

Anticipate Deliveries and Adhere to Protocols

It’s important to consider delivery, emergency, and all other personnel an extension of your team. Everyone who comes and goes from your business is ultimately your responsibility. 

For example, if a delivery driver’s carelessness causes an employee to get infected, and that employee infects a customer, the source of the infection can be attributed to your business. Not good.

That’s probably the most important takeaway here. Even if you’re protected from liability, a restaurant where someone got sick can go out of business. There are countless examples, and you don’t want to be the next one.

That is to say, when you prioritize the health and safety of both customers and staff, you’re actually protecting the health and security of your business as well.

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