A pragmatic approach to the reopening of a dark retail store or restaurant.

Now that the dialogue has shifted to the possibility of the lifting of the stay at home orders, retailers, restaurant owners and other businesses that were deemed non-essential have to prioritize what’s truly needed to safely reopen and take that first step back towards normalcy. Given the impact of what was a sudden and dramatic shift to our daily lives, it can feel like a large order to prepare for your employees to return, but it doesn’t have to be. There weren’t earthquakes or hurricanes and although what took place was awful, severe and damaging, it shouldn’t have compromised the overall safety and general conditions at your place of business.

Ultimately your facility’s maintenance budget will dictate your company’s checklist for reopening. Those that are blessed with a strong financial position may seek a far more proactive and thorough dark site reopening program. However, for most of us, the money will be tight and extensive repair and maintenance initiatives will have to be limited. If Capex projects are in the cards, good to hear. Otherwise, our recommendation is to invest your dollars in efforts that will act to quickly reestablish a safe and clean workspace.

UmbrellaOne recommends that a cursory safety inspection of your location be one of your first steps. Check the lights and water. Look for broken doors, windows, damaged ceiling tiles, or other indicators that a break-in or roof leak may have occurred while away. If everything looks in order, move onto your thermostats to make sure that temperature controls are operating properly. F&B operators need to go a step further to ensure that their facility is production-ready (remove old grease and old perishable items, change HVAC/refrigeration filters, check gaskets, etc.). Get your business’s structural and mechanical systems taken care of first.

Beyond these measures, it’s sensible to curb your spending and focus solely on commercial cleaning initiatives. Not because we think the virus still lives on the surface areas of your long-empty store, but because it will help to generate comfort for both your employees and customers. The potential hangover from all of this will have some percentage of people feeling apprehensive about being in public spaces. A clean environment can help quell people’s anxieties and allow them to enjoy your business, no matter which side of the counter they’re on. And for restaurants, an extra deep cleaning of a temporarily closed commercial kitchen goes without saying.

We don’t know when we’ll be able to return to work, but having a strategy in place for when the ban is lifted and you’re comfortable reopening is a worthwhile initiative. A clean environment will help quell people’s anxieties and allow them to enjoy your business, no matter which side of the counter they’re on.