Covid-19 and Restaurants' Challenge

Sailor’s Rest Lounge Bar Restaurant at St Raphael Resort and Marina reveals its safety measures due to COVID-19 and the ease in lockdown restrictions due to the Corona Virus

Sailor’s Rest Lounge Bar Restaurant, set in the idyllic setting of the privately owned St Raphael Resort’s Marina, has been hit as hard as any by the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. We closed our doors to our beloved customers mid March 2020 following government directives, but actually had taken the decision to close two days prior to this after the first cases of the novel Corona Virus had been discovered in Cyprus. In these challenging times, we have to protect both our staff and our customers. Thankfully, we put our time of closure to good use, studying every guideline, government directives from around the world and international medical advice, to come up with our own Health and Safety protocol to keep everyone safe.
sailors rest drone image
Our restaurant’s measures taken after the Covid-19 pandemic has paralysed the world, and how we are aiming at eliminating unnecessary risks as we re-open during these challenging and unprecedented times.
Covid-19 measures and cleaning staff
covid-19 and challenges for restaurants Cleaning
Even five star resorts with award winning restaurants like Sailor’s Rest (certified and following the strict rules and regulations governing ISO 22000 for the past 11 years) have had to change their game after the Corona virus pandemic. The obvious challenge of Covid-19 has been the reduction in seating capacity, but further to that, which many customers do not know about, is the reduction of personnel allowed to operate in the kitchens and behind the scenes in closed or small spaces.
In our specific case, our beautiful seaside restaurant has a huge outdoor area, so given our capacity, keeping the indicated two-meter distance between tables was not the challenge. We actually have been able to space out the tables even more. The issue has been that our kitchen is only allowed about half our regular staff due to the new regulations. For many restaurants, the best way to combat this would be to reduce the menu size, thereby minimising the work load of the kitchen. In our case, as our Sushi master was already confined in the Far East after being caught out due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions during his holiday visit home, we already have a slightly reduced menu, and did not have a need to reduce it further. We have however, decided to stick to our brunch hours more strictly, therefore only serving brunch on weekends until midday, until further notice, and thereby allowing us to concentrate on our main, rather large, menu selection from lunchtime onwards to dinner. 
We have implemented many new measures such as paperless menu and zero linen usage for both the front and back of the house. Customers are encouraged to look at our menu on their own mobile devices, however, should they need assistance we do have adequate numbers of tablets which are disinfected after every customer’s usage. Likewise, at the end of the meal, we will take the bill to their table encouraging contactless payment but should a customer wish to come to the register to pay, we have signs on the floor reminding guests to keep a 2-meter safety distance.
Our number of staff has also been limited to allow for less contact between them, but of course we have also allowed for more short breaks as working with face masks and gloves, especially in the Mediterranean summer, can be challenging. We have full time cleaning staff also, making sure that all areas are sanitised regularly, and proper health measures are followed. The kitchen has increased the daily area, equipment, and utensils sanitation above norm as per ISO obligations and seating is cleaned thoroughly after every guest’s departure. Likewise, both customer and employee toilets are regularly sanitised and signposting is indicating max number of people entering, which is one at a time. Even though the toilets can accommodate more people, with two cubicles for each male and female, only one person should go into either area at once. There are of course increased expenses due to the new safety measures, but we consider these a worthwhile investment.
staff disinfection continuously
We also have frequent inspections both from governmental and non-governmental bodies to ensure that high standards of health and safety procedures are always adhered to as part of our ISO 22000 certification. We closely monitor, take records of all areas frequently disinfect, and with key areas of frequently touched points being cleaned very thoroughly and regularly.
We have contactless digital thermometers to use for guests who enter the restaurant in order to check their temperatures should this be required.
measuring staff temperature against Covid-19
ways to measure staff temperature
At either of our two entrances, there are hand sanitising areas with single-use gloves, if someone wishes to use them, and more alcohol-based stations inside the restaurant and toilets. Upon arriving at the restaurant, someone oversees escorting guests to their tables where prior to sitting them, tables are being sanitised and then set up before the customer. Signposting at all entrances is advising our beloved guests of our safety measures and new restaurant capacity. 
We are also promoting takeaway to combat any loss in revenue, giving 10% discount on the bill total. In addition, early bookings by guests are encouraged, as with limited seating available and no bars operating, where customers could have a pre-dinner drink, it’s best to know with certainty that your table is available.
Social media promotions, adverts and stories have also paid a big role in overcoming these challenges that Covid-19 has inflicted on the tourism industry at large. During the strict lockdown, happy images of our hotel and restaurants provided countless guests with the opportunity to smile and ‘escape’ in their thoughts and we had so many emails and comments of guests reminiscing about happy days spent with us. We also take bookings via social media, which also alleviates the pressure on phone reservations.
One of the main things that I believe differentiates us from other restaurants, and I would encourage all business owners and managers to do, is to really think about your staff, what would make them feel safe, and also imagine yourself as a customer, and what would make  you feel safe. As a mother of three young children, who adhered strictly to the Corona Virus government lockdown, I thought to myself, what would encourage me to go to a restaurant in these challenging times?….and then I had to ask myself, what would make me want to work in a restaurant in these challenging times of a pandemic.
The first thing we did was to have all our staff tested for Covid-19, something that will continue on a scheduled basis. Thankfully all our staff tested negative. Then we did a crash course, intensive training, about the new health and safety measures. The pandemic is not over, and while the staff are coming to work, there is now a new ‘normal’ and we need them to understand this and all the new important, and sometimes daunting, measurements. With this in mind, all staff signed that they understood their training and would do all in their power to stay safe for themselves and the clients. When talking to them, they all have the utmost regard to personal safety and only intend to come to work and stay home. They know that the corona virus is not over, and that they must be cautious always.
Wearing masks and gloves at work, hand sensitizing regularly, temperature checks at the start of their work and at regular intervals during the day, have become a regular way of life for them in just a few days.
Covid-19 forces staff to wear masks
Air-conditioning inside the restaurant is not turned on, all the huge beautiful glass windows and doors of the restaurant are open, leaving three sides open which is why the Health and Safety inspectors allowed us to utilise 40 seats inside the restaurant. Again, where possible we are using even fewer seats for more safety. Thankfully, the natural sea breeze blowing in through the restaurant is a Godsend in these challenging times.
In conclusion, at St Raphael Resort and Marina, we will not stop in our efforts to protect our staff and clients. We are following up on every bit of news and new directive we can find, worldwide and nationally, and our health and safety manual is updated almost weekly. The most important thing to us is that our customers not only feel safe, but can enjoy top-quality food, drink, atmosphere and service at our award-winning Sailor’s Rest Lounge Bar restaurant to which they have become so accustomed over the years. At any time of day, whether for brunch, lunch, just a coffee or a fine-dining meal, guests will feel at ease in the knowledge that everything has been considered. It’s still service with a smile, although now with our masks on, we smile with our eyes!
farah shamas owner of St Rafael Resort one of the top entrepreneurs in Cyprus

By Farah Shammas