Restaurant Reopening 101: Guidelines and best practices

Missed our LIVE webcast? Watch the recording below and find out more about the state by state reopening guidelines and best practices from the Restaurant and Catering Association.

With the government recently announcing the lifting of restrictions across the country and restaurants  preparing to reopen, it’s important to thoroughly understand what these restrictions mean for your business , what’s changed and how to ensure your staff and guests are safe. 

To help us navigate these new restrictions, we invited Wes Lambert- CEO of Restaurant and Catering Australia (R&CA), to share with us their best practice guidelines in line with the local government mandates to help operators reopen successfully.  

The government guidelines for each state are changing by the minute. You can visit the Restaurant and Catering Association coronavirus resource hub for the most up to date information.

Below is a summary of the general guidelines from R&CA as of Thursday 28 May 2020:

Bookings and conditions of entry

We are now business “unusual”.  This means operators that plan to reopen, must comply with the new government regulations on conditions of entry. Businesses must capture the first and last name, and a contact phone number or email address for each patron dining in. This extends to walk-in guests as well. Operators have the right to refuse service to guests showing symptoms such as fever or coughing. 

To set diner expectations and ensure their safety, businesses can place signs at entry points to request diners to not enter their premises if they are unwell, remove waiting area seating and clearly mark social distancing requirements on the floor.

OpenTable pro tip: Update online reservations and booking policies

As well as updating your website, restaurant descriptions on partner sites and in-venue signage, make sure to update the messaging your customers see when they make their reservation online and receive their confirmation email. Go to > = > Policies, to make these changes for your restaurant. Update your Standard Details policy, or update policies assigned to particular date ranges, to make sure you stay ahead of upcoming changes.



Front of House/Customer interaction

Minimise queuing and close interaction between patrons, and your front of house staff by creating easy to spot floor markings that comply with the social distancing requirements.

If you have pivoted to takeaway and delivery, ensure that you set up different areas for ordering and collection. Regularly clean and disinfect any electronic devices used to order or deliver food. For restaurants that are self-delivering ensure the delivery vehicle is frequently cleaned and disinfected.

OpenTable pro tip:  Set your maximum capacity limit

Use OpenTable’s Max Capacity setting to quickly and simply limit the amount of diners that can be seated in your venue at one time. This master setting is the fastest way to ensure you stay below your specified maximum capacity. To put your maximum “one-time” capacity in place, go to > = > Availability Planning > Schedule > select each Shift block > Shift Settings  > Capacity.


Dining in and Service 

                Businesses must ensure proper protocol is followed for dining rooms and service. 

  • Seating arrangements

Social distance between table edges/centres to adjacent tables (1.5m between patrons seated at different tables) and no more than 1 patron per 4 square meter on average across the dining area. Businesses cannot have bar service or any food on display meant for consumption.

All tables, chairs, stools and booth seating must be sanitised after every booking. Note that outdoor service will require same table distance requirements and booking/tracking requirements as indoor.

OpenTable pro tip :  Adjust your floor plans and table types

Ease of use and flexibility are key to business success in these moments. It’s up to you whether you change your physical floor plan, or just use a specific selection of ‘active’ tables. Either way, OpenTable makes it simple to just click, drag-and-drop table off – or on –  your floor plan to achieve your goals. And best of all, no matter how you set things up in advance, OpenTable always allows you to make changes front-of-house as you need, with just a tap. 

  • To update your table configurations, go to > = > Availability Planning > Floor Plan. 
  • To stick with your normal floor plan, but only use specific tables, go to > = >  Availability Planning > Schedule > Shift Settings  > Exceptions.
  • Condiments/BYO

No condiments left on tables (including salt & pepper), all serves of condiments should be disposable and not stored or disseminated from a common container.  This includes communal water stations. Businesses should also refuse to accept keep-cups, BYO alcohol bottles or containers for safety reasons. 

  • Cutlery

All non-disposable crockery/cutlery/glassware must be cleared after each course and washed using a commercial grade dishwasher or glasswasher only. If not practical, businesses can use disposable/recyclable cutlery, crockery and glassware. 

  • Hygiene

The menu should either be laminated to facilitate easy cleaning or completely disposable after each use. Restaurants should pivot to chalk boards or digital menus if they can. Reconsider your menu offering to limit or exclude share plates and ‘self-serve’ sections. Make automatic hand sanitisers freely available throughout the business based upon capacity for customer use. 

OpenTable pro tip:  Update your Turn times to accomodate new sanitation requirements

The time a diner needs to ‘complete’ their experience may be different now, depending on how many changes you decide to make to your sequence of service and menu. Set clear expectations with your guests via online messaging and menu descriptions. Update your ‘turn times’ to make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to greet, sit, serve, clean and reset each table, before the next party arrives. Go to > = > Availability Planning > Schedule > Shifts > Turn Times.



Establish electronic payment as a preferred method of payment.  Use credit card capture during the booking process to minimise interaction between FOH and guests, post service. 

Where practicable, introduce plexiglass barriers at tills and counters as an additional level of protection for staff. 

OpenTable pro tip:  Set up secure credit card capture

Speak with your OpenTable account manager about setting up credit card capture integration for your online and in-house bookings. It’s simple to setup and can be applied to all online reservations, or a more specific range of situations such as party size specific capture or shift specific capture.

General measures to be undertaken by staff

Limit physical interactions between workers, clients, and other persons at the site (e.g. deliveries) and use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate. Identify ways to modify tasks and processes to increase physical distancing between workers.  

Increase cleaning and sanitation measures for all food preparation areas and equipment, and frequently touched surfaces such as counters, menus, handrails, doors, till, phones, keyboards and EFTPOS facilities. Also consider reducing the number of touch points for workers and gloves and alcohol-based hand sanitiser should be made available

Ensure Staff are re-trained through a short accreditation course to be completed by food service businesses (either owner, manager, licensee or all holders of food safety supervisor certificate).  Restaurant & Catering Association have developed and designed the “COVID-19 Hospitality Best Practice” micro-credential to equip the industry with an online training tool that will assist in preparing them for returning to business. Find out more here.

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