How to Safely Reopen a Coffee Shop During the COVID-19 Pandemic


With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world, the last few months have been challenging for coffee shop owners. Some coffee shops have had to close completely, while others have been able to operate with limited takeaway service. Now that some areas are easing restrictions, it is time to look at how to safely reopen your coffee shop so you can get back to business. 

But how do you go ahead with reopening? What safety precautions do you need to adhere to? We’ll explore the various items that any cafe should think about as life slowly gets back to normal.

Are Cafes Being Allowed to Reopen?

Depending on the country, state, and area that you operate in, a lot of governments are implementing a staggered approach to reopening. This may look like capping the number of patrons allowed in any space at a given time or collecting diners’ personal details. No matter the case, there is one thing that is for sure: when you reopen, you will most likely need to meet social distancing requirements and your government’s COVID hygiene standards.

What Kind of Standards Can You Expect?

You may have to adhere to different rules, depending on the government in your area. While these may look different from location to location, all governments’ objective will be to minimize the risk of transmission and to protect the health of customers and visitors in cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway venues. 

A lot of governments are requiring coffee shops and other food places to keep a temporary record of their customers and visitors. This will ensure that, in the event of an outbreak, the government can work quickly with your business and patrons to contain clusters. 

Your local authorities may require you to cap the number of patrons and also stagger their attendance to avoid queues and large groups.

Steps to Take to Keep Your Coffee Shop Safe

There are some easy ways to keep any cafe safe and prevent the transmission of the virus within your shop. Doing so is imperative for public health as well as the long-term health of your business. We must all work together to keep infections at a minimum and continue a safe reopening process. 

  1. Calculate the maximum number of patrons that can reasonably maintain social distancing rules (generally 6ft/2m). This should take into account the indoor and outdoor space, as well as the busy areas of the venue. 
  2. Reconfigure indoor and outdoor seating and tables so that social distancing guidelines can be maintained. You could do so by increasing the distance between tables or removing them altogether. 
  3. Work with your commercial landlord to ensure you can adjust your processes so that queues and bottlenecks can be avoided. 
  4. Reduce the need for customers to queue and discourage customers from queueing indoors. Patrons should be advised to queue outside where space is available and safe. Use parking lots, small streets that have been closed off, or existing outdoor areas. 
  5. Manage queues so that they do not encroach on the space of other businesses. Assign a dedicated staff member to direct customers and ensure they maintain social distancing.
  6. Inform customers of social distancing and hygiene guidelines upon arrival. Let them know over the phone, via email at the time of booking, on your website, or by way of signage at the front entrance to your venue. 
  7. Encourage patrons to use hand sanitizer or wash their hands before and after dining. Encourage this by making hand sanitizer readily available at the entrance and on tables.

Make Your Coffee Shop More Contactless

The world was already moving in a more contactless direction, but COVID has rapidly accelerated some retail trends.

Add contactless payment machines to your checkout area. They are faster, more convenient, and remove any hand-to-hand or hand-to-device contact, reducing the spread of any germs.

Some bigger cafes are beginning to add self-checkout kiosks, too. These are currently unrealistic for small operations but they, too, eliminate any direct hand-to-hand contact between team members and shoppers.

Add a drop-off area near your espresso machine to eliminate hand-to-hand drop-offs. These lead to hot spills anyway!

Reduce Your In-Store Traffic

While keeping your store safe and clean is vital (as we discuss below), it’s also important to minimize the total number of people in your shop while still maximizing your sales.

Curbside pickup is likely one option that you’ve already used. Many coffee shops, bars, and restaurants were allowed to offer curbside pickup prior to the reopenings. This became a popular option of shoppers and something that they became accustomed to quickly. Keep promoting it to encourage frequent visits without an extended time in your store.

Build your online ordering program. With a great eCommerce integration, your cafe can make sales online for pickup and delivery. Like curbside, it decreases physical contact but still allows you to make the sale.

Clean and Sanitize Everything, Often

While a more general cleaning of a coffee shop may have been acceptable in the past, in the post-COVID world it is important to make sure regular sanitizing occurs. 

Cleaning and sanitizing are two different processes, and both are important for ensuring you can safely reopen your coffee shop. Cleaning is the practice of physically removing dirt and grime from surfaces, whereas sanitizing means using chemicals to kill germs on these surfaces. Cleaning will make your sanitizing efforts more effective, as it helps to remove the physical grime on surfaces and allows the chemicals to do their job. 

Start with a regular routine. This involves wiping down all surfaces, and paying special attention to those that are frequently touched. 

Any surface, dishware, utensils, or piece of equipment that has come into contact with food or people should be cleaned and sanitized. Common surfaces and equipment that must be cleaned and sanitized include the following: 

  • Tabletops
  • Counters
  • Cafe POS tablets
  • Credit card machines
  • Receipt printers
  • Light switches
  • Espresso machines
  • Benches and sinks
  • Door handles
  • Cupboards
  • Pots and pans
  • Chopping boards
  • Food storage containers
  • Utensils
  • Knives
  • Lowboys and refrigerators
  • Thermometers
  • Glasses and cups

How Cafes Should Sanitize? 

Heat – Use a commercial dishwasher or hot water in the sink to wash small items. Make sure the water is at least 170 degrees to ensure it is effective.

Chemicals – If you are unable to use a commercial dishwasher, a chemical sanitizer can be used. 

  • For smaller items, wash them in detergent and hot water and then wash them using warm water. 
  • For items that are too large to fit in the sink, thoroughly clean them with a cloth and spray bottle. 

If you want to go organic, you can source organic sanitizers from reputable suppliers online. If so, make sure your sanitizer meets the following standards:

  • Peracetic acid
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Organic acids
  • 70% alcohol solutions that do not contain quaternary ammonium compounds

Train Your Team Well

If you are the owner or manager of a high-volume cafe, you are ultimately the person who is responsible for the health and safety or your patrons and staff. To ensure that you are able to reopen your coffee shop, you will want to make sure your baristas, chefs, and waitstaff are appropriately trained. It is important that your staff understand that while business is returning to normal, this is definitely not business as normal. Staff should understand the commitment they need to make to clean the cafe. 

Cleaning should be undertaken when a surface or item becomes visibly dirty or when they are touched by multiple people, like during staff or table turnovers. If any equipment is shared between workers, this should also be cleaned as frequently as possible.

The best way to stay on top of this is to create a schedule. This can be a simple color-coded system that alerts each staff member of their duties when they arrive at their shift, during their shift, and after their shift. This will ensure efficiency throughout the day, and make things easier when it comes to the big end-of-day clean.

Discuss new protocols for delivering food to customers, how to use the point of sale machine, and in-store seating standards in addition to the cleaning changes.

Reopening Your Coffee Shop Successfully

The best way to make sure your shop maintains a high standard of cleanliness and service during this challenging time is to stay involved and organized. Team members will have questions and take time to get accustomed to a new routine. Encouragement and support can make all the difference in keeping your staff feeling equipped and empowered to do their jobs well. Baristas, chefs, and waitstaff will feed off a manager or owner’s positive energy and strong leadership. Ultimately, this will reflect well in the eyes of your customers and make your business even more successful.

To learn more about how KORONA’s cafe point of sale can help you reopen, give us a call or set up a free trial. The system is built to help small businesses improve their daily operations, but it also comes with important features to help you and your team get adjusted to new procedures. Click below to get started!


About the Author

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Michael Chalberg

Michael has long focused his writing on the world of retail and small businesses. He''s been a part of the KORONA POS team since 2018 and loves helping entrepreneurs find ways to adapt and succeed. In his spare time, you'll likely find him hiking somewhere in the Southwest.

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