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COVID-19 restaurant dine-in suspension: What to do, mistakes to avoid, and how to move forward

08 April 2020

By: Adibah Isa

The inevitable has happened. How is your restaurant moving forward through dine-in suspensions imposed by authorities during the COVID-19 outbreak?

In a bid to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, restaurants across Asia have been asked to suspend dine-in services, implement social distancing measures, or shut down entirely. What now?

The next steps you take as a restaurateur, manager and marketer are crucial for both your restaurant operations and branding. Whether you only have 24 hours to set these key steps in motion, or a whole week, here are some do’s and don’ts to take note of when you pivot your business to a new or extended offering.


  • Encourage diners to postpone reservations, instead of cancelling them.

As most authorities will set a time frame for when the suspension is to be in effect, you’ll be able to gauge dates for when you’re back in service. Let diners know that your restaurant will resume dine-in services after the last day of suspension, and offer them the next available date. This also gives both your staff and diners something to look forward to.

  • Switch off availability for online reservations and update operating hours.

Ensure that your online reservation slots appear offline during the suspension period across all platforms. With a reservation system management system like Chope, you’d be able to have full control of availability on your own. Chope assisted restaurants that had to suspend dine-in services by automating this process across all Booking Widgets, including those tied to a restaurant’s social media pages and website.

  • Be transparent with your staff.

Employees are your main stakeholders and should be first in line to receive news. Bear in mind that they’ll be fearing for their livelihoods with the very mention of the word “suspension”. Over-communicate what the next course of action is and how they will be impacted — perhaps by rescheduling shifts or reallocating tasks. While you might not have clarity immediately, don’t leave them in the dark even as you are processing the situation yourself.

  • Offer takeaway or delivery services.

Takeaways and deliveries have become the main revenue streams for many restaurants since the onslaught of COVID-19. If your takeaway and delivery menus were previously an afterthought, now’s the time to bring it to the forefront of your business. Re-engineer your menu to make it more takeaway-friendly, think about marketing your offering online, and reassign front-of-house wait staff to other tasks. These include sourcing for takeaway equipment, packing food, answering queries, or even delivering orders.

At Chope, we’ve always advocated for the dine-in experience. During these extraordinary times, we are also supporting our restaurant partners to boost their takeaway and delivery sales. Do get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more about what we are doing.

  •  Communicate changes on all your platforms

Your diners are very likely confused as to what’s available, and what isn’t. Using your preferred channels, talk to your diners and let them know that yes, while it’s not business as usual, there are still other ways they can access your offerings without necessarily coming to the restaurant. If you are changing your operating hours, remember to reflect those changes on your online listings such as Google Maps, Facebook, and Instagram as well.


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Dear guests,⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Given the current situation in Bali and the rest of the world, we need to face this new reality.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Mama San has decided to hit the pause button and will be closed from Saturday 21 March 2020 until further notice. We are all saddened by this news, but it is, without a doubt, the responsible thing to do in terms of health and safety of our team and our customers.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Any confirmed bookings will be individually contacted by email or WhatsApp.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It is a challenging time for all of us, but by no means a definitive one. We know that restaurants will reopen, cocktail and wine glasses will be filled again and we will cook for you in our kitchens soon.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We will miss you and we are already looking forward to the day we welcome you all again.

A post shared by Mama San Bali (@mamasanbali) on

  • Apply for government assistance schemes for your restaurant and staff 

In whichever market you’re in, keep an eye out for support that’s been pledged from the government. Assistance in the form of grants, loans, subsidies and waivers are useful to tide you through this period. Figure out which schemes are applicable, and submit your queries early. Here are some links to get you started:


Hong Kong





  • Don’t immediately cut all of your marketing spend.

Let’s face it, your marketing team — be it a one-man show or a troupe — is essential at this point, especially when you’re pivoting your business. You need to communicate changes to your diners in an empathetic and targeted manner, so as to retain them in these next crucial weeks or months. By utilising your spend on social media and targeted performance marketing, you can still retain and maybe even acquire new diners.

  • Don’t host a last call party.

Even though regulations only dictate a dine-in suspension to begin at a certain date, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go all out to encourage diners to patronise your restaurant. Be mindful that the COVID-19 virus doesn’t just stop during the buffer period when restaurants are getting ready for dine-in suspension. Exercise social responsibility and ensure that your premises still adhere to social distancing measures to prevent overcrowding.

  • Don’t lose sight of what your restaurant brand stands for.

It’s easy to fall into the trappings of panic or quick fixes that come about when faced with unexpected suspensions. Be consistent in your messaging to diners, and ensure that you stick to what your restaurant stands for.

This is especially applicable when it comes to broad-scale discounting. Based on survey findings from Chope’s white paper on the impact of COVID-19, we found that 54% of respondents have tried time-based discounts, while 44% have used targeted discounts. Targeted discounts are favoured so that diners don’t get used to your lower prices once the situation recovers. If they do, it will be very difficult to go back to your pre-crisis pricing.

The impact of COVID-19 has been somewhat mutable, trickling down to the restaurant community in ways that are both predictable and otherwise. It’s important not to beat yourselves up if you’ve unknowingly executed a “Don’t” — we’re all learning as we go along. Access our COVID-19 Resource Centre for restaurants, with guides, infographics, and advisories to equip you with managing and operating your restaurant.

Want to learn more about how ChopeDeals can support your pivot your restaurant business to takeaways? Click on the Request a Demo button to find out.


Adibah Isa

A digital and print journalist turned content manager for brands that believe in the power of storytelling.


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