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Preparing Your Restaurant for Hurricane Season: 7 Vital Tips

Restaurant owners in storm-prone regions will want to take special precautions for hurricane season. Hurricanes are unpredictable and can cause severe flood and wind damage to your establishment.

The following tips will help you prepare your eatery for the worst storm, prevent injury and damages and develop a swift reopening plan.

7 Hurricane Preparedness Tips for Restaurants

There are numerous actions restaurant owners must take to ensure their establishment can weather a hurricane. These seven preparedness steps are essential to protect your restaurant during hurricane season.

Create a Hurricane Preparedness Plan

Although climate change may not necessarily increase the frequency of hurricanes, scientists predict warmer ocean temperatures will fuel more category 4 or 5 storms in the future. 

Hurricane gusts can whip over 74 miles per hour — powerful enough to ruin siding and roofs or blow out windows and doors. Therefore, restaurateurs should create a hurricane preparedness plan for deciding whether to evacuate or hunker down. 

A hurricane preparedness plan outlines the measures restaurant managers and staff should take during a natural disaster. For instance, who has authority over restaurant closings? What are the steps for shutting down restaurant operations? 

Secure Your Restaurant

Boarding up your restaurant’s windows and doors is a no-brainer when a hurricane blows through. Flying debris could shatter glass and cause significant interior damage. Likewise, you’ll want to avert post-storm looting depending on the outcome. 

However, it is equally, if not more important, to secure all of your emergency documents. These include personnel files and payroll records, all financial statements, taxes, vendor logs, inventory lists, health permits, accreditation, contracts and special recipes. Hopefully, you will have backed up emergency documents in a cloud system for remote access. 

Restaurant managers should also gather a property inventory — including photos and videos — for insurance purposes later.

Invest in a Backup Generator

What happens if a hurricane knocks the power out for days? You will need extra time to get your restaurant’s operations up and running again. 

A backup generator is crucial for getting a head start repairing your establishment after a storm. It also allows you to save perishables from spoiling.

A backup generator will start automatically during a power outage. Some generators hook up to the natural gas line for an endless fuel supply to start kitchen appliances and turn on the lights.

Transfer Perishables to Better Storage

You could lose significant amounts of inventory during storm power outages. Following a hurricane, it could take days before power gets restored to your restaurant. 

Unfortunately, exposure to oxygen speeds up food spoilage due to oxidation. Humidity and moisture — at an all-time high after a hurricane — will also promote mold and mildew growth.

While a backup generator will undoubtedly aid in reopening sooner, you may need to consider moving perishable items to a better storage location.

Pay Employees

Restaurant managers should integrate payroll into their disaster response plans. If the restaurant closes, hurricanes could hit employees hard and require money for the essentials.

There are several ways to stay on top of payroll during a hurricane. Usually, you will have fair warning before the storm rolls through — enough time to pay employees in cash or mail their paychecks early. 

You can also have employees sign up for direct deposits for electronic payments or use payroll cards. Payroll cards allow employees to withdraw money from their paychecks, similar to a debit card. Otherwise, money transfer services are quick and easy to use. 

Develop a Communication Strategy 

Keeping the lines of communication open during a hurricane is critical. A comprehensive communication outline will keep managers and staff connected and informed about restaurant closures, reopenings and damages. 

Compile emergency contact information for employees, managers, vendors, utilities, electric and plumbing contractors, regional or corporate offices and local government offices. 

Reach out to staff after the hurricane passes to ensure everyone safely made it through. You may also contact local news stations to inform the public about your restaurant’s reopening status. 

Get Covered for Damages

Commercial property insurance is expensive. Rates have increased by over 25%, with disaster exposure posing the most significant financial risk. If you live in a tropical or subtropical state prone to hurricanes, you don’t have the option of backing out of flood and property insurance.

Read your insurance coverage to understand how much your insurance company will pay for damages and lost revenue. 

It would be best to consider purchasing separate flood insurance since your commercial property insurance will unlikely reimburse you for flood damages. 

Recommendations for Restaurant Recovery

Hopefully, a hurricane passes without much of a trace. In the event of a bad storm, you may have some extra steps for recovery. Restaurant managers should do the following to reopen their eateries quickly:

  • Assess, document and photograph all damages to file a claim with your insurance company.
  • Repair structural and interior damages immediately.
  • Contact all staff to ensure their safety after the storm.
  • Call a professional cleaning service.
  • Remove expired, contaminated and spoiled food.
  • Contact your suppliers and food truck distributors to hold onto upcoming orders. 
  • Revisit your customer communications plans. How will you notify the public about reopening or whether your establishment must close for repairs?

While you will certainly want to reopen your restaurant as quickly as possible, your staff’s and customers’ safety is paramount. Ensure all damage gets addressed before welcoming patrons back for dining in.

You Can Never Be Too Prepared for Hurricane Season

Although some procedures may seem excessive, you’re better off with a comprehensive plan for when hurricane season intensifies or storms become out of control. Practice restaurant care and protect your workers by thinking and planning ahead.

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