[Takeaways] Guide to Returning to Events

On April 21, Reed Haggerty, COO of DSquared Hospitality and I discussed what it’ll take to create a safe, communal, and memorable experience for guests. Here's the full discussion:


People are looking forward to gathering again. At the same time, they’re nervous and wondering, ‘will it feel the same’? As leaders, the best way to instill confidence with your customers and your staff is to make sure what you say is demonstrated in your actions. 

“It’s not what happened. It’s how you react to what happened!”

Here’s a checklist to help you prepare your return to events.

Communication is key to putting people at ease

Everyone -- including prospects, clients, employees, suppliers, and local officials -- should know how you’re taking care of their safety. Also don’t just explain it on your website, show them how you’re doing it on social media, flyers, etc.

Areas to consider 

  • Food preparation
  • Building setup (e.g. HVAC air pressure)
  • Shared spaces, ensuring there’s enough space
  • New safety equipment needed, like Seek Thermal Scan, touchless hand sanitizer stations, or fingernail brushes in restrooms
  • Cleaning protocols, especially of shared tools and shoes

Adapting your events

Try not to do too much, too quickly. Your customers will appreciate your thoughtfully limiting selection and recommendation of more staff for their safety. While it’s important to be empathetic to your customers’ own budget, suggest shifting budget in headcount to book enough staff.

Areas to consider

  • Limiting menu options, like self-serve buffets and charcuterie boards
  • Adding social distancing cues like carpet tiles
  • Increasing event space, possibly hosting more events outside
  • Limiting guest attendance
  • Adding more hand washing stations and in between event programming
  • Changing glassware and flatware, adding more disposables  

Consider evolving your menu and service offerings to maintain a higher level of hygiene. This includes:

  • Tastings: set up bigger tables, an extra level of precautions for plated foods
  • Tray pass: servers need to be prepared to deliver food to customers with tongs or have food individually pre-wrapped
  • Buffets / Stations: limit or have it served. Make it a small plate station or bento box style
  • Bar: bartenders will need to be careful with ingredients, increase use of tongs, add washing stations

FOH Staffing Considerations

You’ll likely need to change your staffing ratios to accommodate higher sanitation standards. By planning this ahead of time, you can more accurately budget in your sales calls now.

Areas to consider

  • New training: Reed shared they are training in phases with a train-the-trainer roll out
  • Staffing needs: new positions (temperature checker, cleaners), staff for shorter durations (4-5 hour shifts to serve)
  • Policies to reduce cross-contamination, like leaving personal belongings in a car
  • Adding a personal health status statement for all staff before and after working a shift (get template here)
  • Hygiene policies throughout the event
  • Uniforms and tools needed

BOH setup

Consider how you can up level food safety and hygiene standards in the BOH.

Areas to consider

  • Shared tools and spaces: limit use or clean more often
  • BOH setup off work surfaces: have paper towels on vertical holders, glove box holders mounted, put plastic wrap/foil on dispensers
  • Upgrade equipment, such as have sink faucet handles extended

Down the road...

Those attending the webinar shared they plan on making the following changes.

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This is just the start. As we see testing for viruses or antibodies become available, there may be additional measures you’ll want to include. Having these pieces in place now makes you more able to take advantage of future advancements. 

We’re in it together!