The safety of your team and customers should always be your #1 priority in the case of a hurricane or tropical storm. High winds, torrential rainfall, and flooding can cause significant damage, so it’s crucial to have a robust restaurant hurricane preparedness plan in place—before you’re faced with a significant weather event. If a storm is on the radar, staying up-to-date on weather conditions, warnings, and evacuation protocols are keys to keeping everyone safe.
However, when you run a restaurant, hurricane preparedness is about more than just safety. In order for your team to continue their livelihoods and for your community to have a place to eat (and experience a sense of normalcy), your business needs to weather the storm. Plus, your insurance company expects you to take reasonable measures to mitigate damage, so you need to think ahead to cover all your bases.
To protect your restaurant from the perils of a storm, take a look at the insights below. These facts, tips, and actionable steps are based on the practical realities we learned while operating Raising Cane’s Chicken Finger® restaurants as Hurricane Katrina battered the gulf coast in 2005. Of our 28 locations, 21 were directly affected, and hundreds of team members were evacuated. To help you get ready now, we’re passing on the most valuable lessons we learned about being prepared for dangerous weather:
Restaurant Hurricane Safety and Preparation:
If your restaurant is in the path of a hurricane or tropical storm, understanding what concrete steps need to be taken is invaluable. When you find yourself in a state of emergency, it’s critical to act quickly, confidently, and efficiently, so make sure you’re prepared to:
- Monitor communications from local and state authorities
- Update emergency team contact information
- Provide managers with contact information
- Ensure your team knows where to go for company updates
- Instruct managers to prepare personnel/evacuation plans
- Respond quickly to any false rumors to effectively manage anxious Team Members
- Ensure that all equipment on the roof is secure
Understand the Levels of Hurricane Escalation
Recognizing the gravity of the impending situation is another essential part of preparing for a hurricane. Underestimating the power of nature can have grave consequences, so it’s vital to arm yourself with as much knowledge and information as possible. Here are a few key terms you should be able to recognize as you monitor a storm:
- Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions, which include winds of 74 MPH or higher, are possible within the affected area. Be alert and monitor conditions carefully.
- Hurricane Warning: This means a hurricane is expected, and action is required. Be alert, monitor information from local and state authorities, and complete storm preparations. Leave the area as directed by local authorities.
- Tropical Depression: This is a low-pressure weather system originating in the tropics with wind speeds of 38 MPH or lower. Tropical depressions can escalate quickly, so stay on top of any updates.
- High Wind Advisory: This means sustained winds of 25 MPH or higher are expected or occurring in a specified area. Monitor local weather information closely, and be prepared to take action if needed.
What to do when closing your restaurant for a hurricane or severe weather?
The reality is, if weather conditions necessitate closing, you and your team are going to be under acute stress. Having a well-laid plan can make preparation faster and less chaotic. Most importantly, knowing what needs to happen will minimize the risk of an important step being forgotten or left out of the process. So here’s what you should do:
- Remain in close communication with upper management and your team
- Complete the Restaurant Storm Closing Checklist
- Place freezable product in the freezer
- Be in touch with nearby restaurants (if applicable) about power/storage/products
What to do when re-opening your restaurant after a hurricane or severe weather?
Once the storm has passed, it’s still crucial to stay diligent and cautious as you embark on the re-opening process. Be sure to keep in constant contact with upper management and ownership before entering your restaurant, and make sure everyone is on the same page regarding timelines, conditions, and local guidance.
Once you’re cleared to enter, the first thing you should do is visually inspect the property to check for dangerous conditions. If there are downed power lines, always assume that wires are live. Do not touch, move or drive over the lines. Contact the fire department and utility company immediately, and then follow their instructions carefully.
If there are no hazardous conditions, complete the following:
- Post-storm Inspection Checklist
- Post-Storm Re-Entry Checklist
- Request maintenance for items needing repair
- Notify your utility company if needed
- Be alert for water boil guidelines and follow local authorities’ guidance
- If there is no damage, continue normal operations
Re-opening a restaurant after severe weather should be done using the buddy system, and everyone involved should be regularly briefed on any updates.
This post also contains valuable crisis management information that can help you navigate returning to normal operations after being impacted by a storm. In addition, it has timeless best practices that will put your business on the path back to normalcy.
Consult to Grow has a plethora of dedicated materials that are designed specifically for restaurant hurricane preparedness. This resource includes a copy of this article, a team emergency contact form, restaurant emergency contact sheet, quick-close checklist, post-storm inspection checklist, and more.
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