As the warmer weather creeps in, residents across the country are growing restless from social distancing and stay-at-home orders. So restless that some states are reopening certain businesses—although no states are fully open. As of mid May, more than half of U.S. states are partially reopened or will partially reopen soon. While this is welcome relief for some event venues, like restaurants, this change doesn’t eliminate the need for social distancing, wearing masks or gloves, or virus-related cleaning.
Of course, even if your state allows certain event venues to reopen, the decision to do so is up to you. Be sure to check your state’s guidelines for reopening before you do so. Not all states are reopening, and not all businesses in reopened states are allowed to operate.
After checking your state’s guidelines, consider if your venue is located in or near high-risk populations. You may choose not to reopen if that is the case. Or, you may need to take extra precautions do to so. Whether you reopen or not, there are still ways you can support your business and communicate with customers.
During Social Distancing
Even during reopening, social distancing is still strongly encouraged and even required in certain states. These tips will help you maintain good customer relationships while you’re closed—which will help when you plan to reopen.
Stay Active Online
Customers want to know that their favorite events venues still plan to reopen, even if you’re temporarily closed. And an active social media presence is an easy way to do that. With so many staying at home, active users have increased on Facebook and Instagram by 2.5% and 3.7%, respectively. Your customers are online—start a conversation with them. Although your posts can be about your business, COVID-19, or politics, they don’t have to be. Instead, you can feature your employees, share uplifting messages, or even brainstorm what your post-pandemic event venues will look like.
While everyone is on social media, don’t forget about your website, too! Update your hours of operation or add a “temporarily closed due to COVID-19” note near them. And adjust any online forms that you need to. For example, if customers can book online or reserve a date, make sure your calendar only includes dates that you plan to be open.
Create Clever Merchandise
Event venues and the industry as a whole are suffering from restricted gatherings, and they’re not the only ones. With cancelled tours, musicians and their crews are struggling, too. Some of those in the music industry are creating pandemic-specific merchandise to raise funds for their artists and crews while tours are cancelled. You and your event venues can do the same!
How can you can utilize merchandise to support your community and your employees? We see custom posters and T-shirts created just for that purpose. But you could also design tote bags, stickers, and baseball caps. And if designing isn’t your strength—that’s okay! Team up with a local designer and donate a portion of the proceeds to them as payment. (While giving them tons of creative credit, of course!)
If you have event bookings for the coming weeks and months, don’t wait for them to contact you. Instead, open the dialogue about a new normal for their event, and how the current plan will change. If you don’t plan to reopen by their event date, discuss rescheduling for a later date. (More on that in the next section!)
Bonus Tip: Start with events that are happening sooner, and work your way to the later dates.
On the other hand, if you will reopen by their event date, provide them with a list of sanitation and social distance procedures that you plan to use. And know that those new policies may impact their event. For example, they may need to shorten their guest list, or guests may need to comply with health screenings before entering event venues. Whatever path you need to go down—don’t wait! Reach out first and get ahead of potential cancellations and panicked customers.
A New Normal
No one knows exactly what the new normal for event venues will look like. But as states begin to reopen slowly, we’ll start to get an idea. Until then, there are ways that you can be safe while meeting your customer’s needs.
Whenever you reopen, you’ll likely see an influx of new and re-scheduled events. To adjust for that, your venue’s new normal can include expanded hours or days of operation. For example, if you were never open on Wednesdays, start booking future events on Wednesdays. This extra day makes you more available for couples and event planners who are looking to re-book their events. Plus, it will help you manage the increase in bookings.
If you do change your availability, add those new days or hours to your website and social media accounts. Even once you’ve reopened, your customers will still check your hours online—before they even call. Give them the information that they need, so your conversation is easy.
Increase Sanitation & Cleaning
Yes, your event venues were clean before the Coronavirus outbreak. But you’ll need to clean more now, and you’ll have to take extra precautions, too. Many restaurants and businesses are taking the temperature of both employees and customers because fevers are one of the most common signs of the virus. However, it’s important to note that not everyone with a fever has the virus, and not everyone who has the virus gets a fever. It’s just another precautionary measure to keep everyone safe. (A restaurant in Hong Kong even put plexiglass dividers between booths to keep guests from coughing or breathing on one another!)
Even with temperature checks, your employees and customers should all be practicing social distancing and wearing masks and gloves whenever possible. All surfaces—especially door knobs, tables, and counter tops—should be sanitized regularly. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published clear sanitation guidelines, including what cleaning products are EPA-approved, and how to use them.
In many U.S. states, restaurants and similar businesses are open for outdoor seating only, and event venues can follow suit. Being outdoors allows more space for proper social distancing, and there may even be fewer surfaces to clean. (Just don’t forget to clean inside surfaces if guests have access to bathrooms!)
But outdoor seating doesn’t mean you can operate at maximum capacity. Social distancing should still be maintained—which means smaller crowds for you and your guests. And that’s okay! These safety measures are keeping your employees and your customers safe. Even before the outbreak, planners on our site were frequently booking small events with our listed vendors. We’ve never limited our event sizes, and we’re glad we didn’t! Because now we’re able to help event venues adapt to a smaller, new normal.
A new normal is certainly possible, if done do safely for your customers and your employees. Wherever possible, enforce social distancing and face masks for guests and employees. And consider digital devices for certain tasks—just make sure to sanitize them! For example, book all future events over the phone or video call. Or have guests order and pay using a device at their table. Most importantly—know the rules for your state so you don’t get in trouble, or put anyone at risk.
Is your state opening up soon? If so, will your business open up?