How to run a restaurant in the face of uncertainty

The hospitality industry is being hit hard. With small margins, any sustained drop in covers has a big impact. Whether you’ve seen an impact on your business yet or want to prepare now for likely drops to come, here are some steps you can take based on what we’re seeing in the industry at large.

“The world’s health and the health of our industry is at the front of our minds now. In times of economic uncertainty restaurants get hit hard. While we don’t know the complete impact at this time, one thing is for certain, we have the backs of our nearly 60,000 restaurant partners. We are in this together.”

Andrea Johnston, OpenTable COO

The state of the restaurant industry

As the COVID-19 pandemic keeps people home and some cities, states, and countries limit restaurant operations, our community of nearly 60,000 restaurants faces unprecedented challenges. We’ve summarized the data from the restaurants on our platform of year-over-year seated diners and are updating it daily.

See the latest in the data center

1. Stay informed

As COVID-19 continues to make headlines, reduced travel and government calls to practice social distance and avoid large gatherings are hitting restaurants hard.

2. Connect with guests

Guests’ behaviors are changing. You’ll want to stay in touch with guests who’ve already booked, while continuing to be discovered by those looking to dine out in cities where restaurants remain open.

  • Call or email guests to cancel reservations, and remember to pause automated email campaigns.
  • Inform guests of precautions you’re taking on your website and/or via email. You can export your guest list to do this.
  • Update your profile if you change your hours or need to shut down temporarily.
  • Monitor guest feedback and respond to guest concerns across all your channels

3. Meet guests where they are

People are understandably nervous. Make it easy for people to choose your restaurant.

  • Turn on delivery options and takeout to let people know they can enjoy your delicious food without going out  (see tips for moving to delivery and pickup only).
  • Update booking policies to be more guest-friendly (e.g. remove credit card holds).
  • Remind guests that they can support your restaurant by buying gift cards to use in the future. We are waiving fees on OpenTable’s Gifts portal to help promote gift cards to our network of diners.
  • Be empathetic to guest preferences (e.g. changing seats, avoiding waiting areas, changing dishes or glassware).

4. Support your staff

With fewer people dining out and an increase in delivery and takeout orders, you will likely have a shift in staffing needs and staff members are likely to be concerned. There are ways to take care of them.

  • Share unemployment and financial aid resources with your staff members to help them get through these tough times.
  • Make clear that if anyone feels unwell they should not come in. See prevention and monitoring tips from ServSafe.
  • Consider starting a GoFundMe or other relief fund to support the community.
  • Have an on-call program so staff can get extra shifts if others are sick.
  • Schedule to help everyone through this hard time safely and with as little negative personal economic impact as possible.

5. Adjust operations

As conditions change, stay on top of the impact on your business. Realign the way you manage your books and run your service accordingly.

6. The obvious: keep everything even cleaner

The more you can do to go above and beyond to protect your guests and reassure them about your hygiene efforts, the better.


What your restaurant can do in the face of COVID-19
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OpenTable COO on restaurant impact from COVID-19
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COVID-19 checklist: Restaurant best practices
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Email templates for communicating with guests about COVID-19
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Tips to move to delivery and takeout

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Resources for restaurant owners and staff to navigate COVID-19
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