With millions of people living under some kind of COVID-19 stay-at-home order now, many restaurants are facing the possibility of having to close temporarily.

As of April 1, some 270 million people — three fourths of the entire U.S. population — are living their lives under some form of COVID-19 stay-at-home order. That means, among other things, that dining in restaurants has been put on hold.

The National Restaurant Association’s March survey of more than 5000 restaurateurs around the country (taken before the signing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) revealed that 3% of restaurants have closed permanently, 11% anticipated closing permanently, and 44% have closed temporarily.

Even if social distancing is never imposed by law in your area, it’s an inescapable fact of life. Takeout and delivery can be enough to sustain some restaurants, but that model isn’t viable for everyone.

When temporary closure is the right solution for you, here are tips on how to do it right so you can disengage efficiently at minimal cost, and get back up and running quickly when folks are ready to go out to eat again.

This list is adapted from one created by the Arizona State Restaurant Association with the help of Darden Restaurants, 99 Restaurants, and 110 Grill.

  • Empty all refrigeration units, unplug and leave doors open.
  • Prepare and transfer all perishable food.
  • Let staff take any food that can’t be frozen or saved.
  • Take a final inventory of all food and beverage items remaining.
  • Lock all alcohol in cages or in an office. (To preserve open bottles of liquor, remove pour tops and tightly wrap the bottle top in plastic cling wrap.)
  • Clean and blow out beer lines.
  • Remove all trash from the building and cancel dumpster pickups.
  • Cancel all customer reservations.
  • Turn off any autopayment processes.
  • Cancel all scheduled deliveries: foods, soft drinks, liquor, sanitary supplies, linen service and any others.
  • Cancel all scheduled services: trash pickup, beer-line cleaning, knife sharpening, cable TV service, music service, armored car pickup and any others.
  • Close out your usual month-end procedures.
  • Make sure you have updated contact info for all your employees.
  • Alert your payroll company to any layoffs and/or changes in payroll, and alert your health insurance provider to any layoffs or elimination of benefits.
  • Forward the restaurant phone line and email address to ones that will be monitored.
  • Set thermostats to power-saving mode without shutting off the system completely. (Reconditioning the building after the air has been shut off can cause HVAC systems to fail.)
  • Leave all your exhaust fans running. (If there’s a gas leak or a pilot goes out while the restaurant is closed, the fans will help exhaust any hazardous gas from the building.)
  • Set tankless water heaters to off, turn off the water circulator pump, shut off any gas supply and turn off all gas to kitchen equipment.
  • Perform a final walkthrough to ensure all kitchen knobs are set to “off”; all lights are off in the walk-ins, kitchen, dining room and offices; all entertainment electronics are off; and all exterior doors and doors to secure storage areas are locked.

Hopefully, closing your unit will be temporary and the industry will roar back to full service to fulfill growing pent-up demand.