Guide To Restarting A Catering Business After Lockdown
The covid 19 pandemic has dealt a cruel jolt to our lives and businesses alike. The lockdown that followed bought many businesses to a standstill and was an unexpected circumstance that nobody was prepared for. One of the business sectors that suffered the most was the hospitality sector, including hotels, restaurants and catering services.
Now that things are slowly crawling back to normal post the lockdown and as citizens learn to live with the virus, the catering and related businesses are looking to start their business operations too. While the new normal has brought about many changes in how the economy functions, the onus is now on businesses to handle the impact of social distancing on consumers as they themselves chart a course of action to operate their businesses keeping the new normal in mind.
However, they cannot operate and function the same way that they did previously; they have to now adhere to social distancing norms and ensure taking requisite safety measures and precautions. As one of the businessmen from the FMCG sector, following the present situation, rightly said -”It is actually not going to be a restart but more likely a reset for FMCG companies, particularly those in the food business”. To elaborate on this, food businesses, especially restaurants, cafes, catering services, relied closely on human interaction. Their field of work involved servicing gatherings or large numbers of people. With the emphasis on social distancing, to curb the spread of the virus, these businesses have to rethink how to start their business again.
Guide To Re-starting Catering Business
There are certain guidelines which the people restarting catering business, or home catering business, as well as other hospitality businesses can follow, in order to return to business in a safe way. The crux of these guidelines include the following parameters-
- Physical distancing
- Personal hygiene
- Cleaning and sanitation
Guidelines For Individuals
The first set of guidelines are for individuals in the catering business, and these are basic guidelines which every individual, irrespective of whether from the catering business or elsewhere must follow. These include-
- Wearing a mask at all times along with clean protective clothing, ensuring that the mask sits on the top of the nose and extends till the chin
- Maintaining a social distance of 6 feet or 2 arms length
- Washing hands frequently at regular intervals, for at least 20 seconds
- Using a sanitizer regularly, that contains at least 70% alcohol
- Avoiding to wear personal jewellery, watches, etc within work premises
- Sanitising mobile phones frequently when used in the business premises
- Wearing gloves while handling and preparing food
- Discontinuing the biometric or fingerprint attendance of individual employees reporting to work (if such a system exists)
- Cleaning of the work surface and other equipment and utensils repeatedly and thoroughly
Responsibilities And Guideline For FBOs
For food business operators or FBOs, there are additional guidelines and responsibilities that they need to adhere to while restarting catering business post the lockdown.
The vital responsibilities include dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic situation, along with other responsibilities where they need to alter their business style and prepare the business keeping in mind the specific situation.
- Pandemic Related Responsibility
The catering business operators along with those in the food business need to handle the novel pandemic situation post the lockdown and prepare themselves and their employees on how to deal with it. The guidelines they can follow include-
- Conduct awareness training to educate the staff about the COVID 19 disease, what exactly is it, what symptoms does it cause, how to handle the suspected as well as confirmed patients/employees, and what all precautions to take.
- Encourage the employees to come forward if they are suffering from the disease and educate the others to empathise with them and display understanding rather than ostracism.
- Conduct screening of personnel at entry points for temperature and oxygen levels is the new normal along with sanitising them.
- Establish an emergency response team that ensures all essential procedures are being followed. Also in case of personnel displaying symptoms, they need to ensure the work-premise is prepared to handle the situation.
- Prepare for an emergency by keeping handy a list of hospitals, contact details of disinfectant agencies, an isolation room for the suspected sufferers, arrange for PPE kits, masks for emergencies, and maintain a record of the health status of everyone regularly.
These guidelines are issued by FSSAI and can be further studied in detail here
- Business Related Responsibilities
Once the catering business is ready to deal with the pandemic, it needs to next prepare itself to adapt to the new situation and function accordingly.
The measures undertaken for restarting catering business and hospitality sector will be keeping in mind the need to maintain a social distance and limit the gathering and interaction of a number of people. This can best be done by taking the following steps and measures-
- Provide take away services where customers can order the food online or via a food delivery app or through message or call and pick up the parcel at the allotted time. This works well for home catering services.
- Alternatively, after restarting catering business, it can provide delivery of food through a service or invest in their own delivery system.
- If the business premise allows, the business can also provide a drive through service where customers can pick up food on the go.
- Obtain good, standard quality packaging such as boxes, containers and cutlery to ensure that the food delivered remains intact and it’s quality is maintained.
- Also, the packaging and labelling must must be on point and fulfill the requirements. Businesses can download food packaging and labelling checklist to ensure that they follow the standards and meet the requirements. This is especially true for restarting catering businesses that provide dry/snackable food items too.
- Invest in a social media presence to connect with a wider audience and advertise about the business. Restarting catering business can contact deAsra to tap the infinite potential of digital marketing for their business, especially in the post lockdown times.
If in case, the catering business is providing services to a small group of people such as a family function, they must ensure that
- The bare minimum number of staff is at the venue
- The servers are standing at a distance, such as across tables
- The staff is wearing masks, gloves, caps and is adhering to safety norms
- The utensils, and equipment are sanitized and thoroughly cleaned periodically
- The entrepreneurs must ensure that guests are not crowding and demarcated positions or seating arrangements can be made for them
Business-Specific Legal Responsibilities
Food business operators and catering business owners also need to ensure that all the basic formalities and legalities are in place for the business to operate smoothly, once it reopens after the lockdown. These include obtaining the following licences and registrations-
- FSSAI Registration
A food business, whether a catering business or a food packaging or any other food-related business, needs to apply for an FSSAI Registration. The FSSAI stands for Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. It regulates the safety and hygienic handling of food products. This Registration is a must and businesses (including the catering business) can Get FSSAI Registration easily and swiftly by choosing services such as those offered by deAsra.
- Shop Act Registration
The catering business also requires a Shop Act Registration, even if the business provides home catering services. This Registration is mandatory and helps set regulations in place for the betterment of the employees and for the business in general.
- GST Registration
Goods and Services Tax or GST is a uniform taxation system introduced by the Government of India to simplify and unify the taxation system for all kinds of businesses. By registering for GST the catering business complies with tax laws prevelant, required for the business.
The pandemic and the scenario thereafter are unforeseen and therefore businesses, including restarting catering business and food sector, need to gear up and inculcate necessary changes to operate smoothly under the given situation.
Post the lockdown, when restarting the business, it is best to ensure that the essential details related to the business are adhered to and taken care of. Most of them are discussed above and for inculcating the same business owners can contact deAsra for guidance and assistance.