Reopening & Recovery

Guidance and information for restaurants looking to safely reopen.

The restaurant industry, more than any other industry in the nation, has suffered the most significant sales and job losses since the COVID-19 outbreak began. More than 8 million restaurant employees were laid off or furloughed, and the industry lost $280 billion in sales during the first 13 months of the pandemic. 

There is a lot of work in front of the industry. Restaurant operators will need information, guidance, and community to be successful. To help operators navigate the new dining landscape, we’ve created guidance on how to reopen your restaurant. To ensure the future of the restaurant industry we’ve outlined a recovery blueprint for government officials.


Restaurant Industry State Vaccine Tracker

Recovery IconGet your workforce vaccinated promptly. This tracker provides the most up-to-date information about how to get the vaccine in each state, the current distribution phase when restaurant workers are eligible to receive the vaccine, and employer responsibilities, if applicable.




COVID-19 Operating Guidance for Restaurants

Open IconFor restaurant operators navigating on- and off-premises service during the pandemic, this updated guidance provides science-based direction, a framework for best practices, and quick access to the most updated links and resources available to help mitigate exposure to the COVID-19 virus during operation. It includes the most recent information from the Association, CDC, FDA, EPA, OSHA, industry and academia.




State by State Reopening Guidance

States Icon

State/Federal Guidance for the WARN Act: The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires companies with 100 or more full-time employees to report plant closings involving 50 or more employees during a 30-day period. Restaurant and retail owners may not realize that a WARN notice also is triggered if employees are terminated or laid off for more than 6 months or if they have their hours reduced 50% or more in any 6-month period. These two documents, one for the federal requirements and one outlining state-specific requirements, will help you navigate the WARN Act and its state offshoots.

State Reopening Training & Certification Requirements/Recommendations 
This document, updated regularly, covers all training and certification requiremen ts for restaurants by state as each enters new reopening phases. It also covers any state food protection manager and food handler certificate expiration extensions and required recertification deadlines.

Official Return to Work Guidelines for Foodservice Establishments
A comprehensive compilation tracking official orders from all 50 states in categories including dine in status (permitted or not), employee and customer PPE/health check requirements, sanitation requirements, occupancy limits, payment process changes, and local exceptions.

COVID-19 Liability Protection Statutes by State
The National Restaurant Association Restaurant Law Center has assembled a state-by-state guide that covers where COVID-19 liability protection legislation stands in states where it’s been discussed, proposed or passed. It will update as new information comes in.

Indoor Dining Restrictions by State 
A summary of information from the more extensive Official Return to Work Guidelines for Foodservice Establishments, this regularly updated document lists which states permit indoor dining, occupancy rates allowed, and any restrictions that apply.

What can operators do when guests refuse to wear face coverings? The Association’s Restaurant Law Center provides information in this handy Q&A.
The Association’s Restaurant Law Center shares ways operators can handle screening employees for COVID-19, face-covering mandates, and sending them home if they present symptoms, all in a Q&A format.

State/Local Face Covering & Health Screening Requirements 
The National Restaurant Association is updating a compiled list of City & County Face Covering requirements and recommendations in real time. 

Guidance for Restaurants Responding to COVID-19 Positive Employee 
Strategies employers could consider in preparation for a potential COVID-19 positive employee. Note, this document provides general guidance and should not be construed as legal, medical or human resource advice, but rather as a resource for employers needing to take quick action. The electronic version of this document contains the relevant links, as of June 24, 2020, to the CDC, OSHA, EPA, and EEOC pages.

For more state and local resources visit


Reopening Guidance for the Restaurant Industry Webinar

Webinar IconWith states reopening in different phases and with differing requirements, this webinar will share updated guidance as well as ideas of how to navigate various rules and requirements.

This webinar is designed in partnership with public health officials to provide you with a basic summary of recommended practices that can be used to help mitigate exposure to the COVID-19 virus, including:

  • Food safety
  • Cleaning and sanitizing
  • Employee health monitoring and personal hygiene
  • Social distancing

This webinar is designed as an information session for individuals working in the foodservice industry. It is not ServSafe Certification training. Please visit for information on ServSafe training.


Reopening Marketplace

Open Icon The Reopening Marketplace is a new addition to the National Restaurant Association’s Marketplace member affinity program. As with Marketplace, the site offers members a selection of important products and services geared to reopening safely and priced at an exclusive, member-only advantage. This select group of products and services helps advance and protect America's restaurant and foodservice industry as it returns to full service.

You’ll find exclusive discounts on everything you need to reopen safely.


Blueprint for Restaurant Revival

Recovery IconThe "Blueprint for Restaurant Revival" outlines specific and immediate action the federal government can take to help restaurants and employees confront and overcome the lingering COVID-19 crisis. The National Restaurant Association Blueprint for Restaurant Revival will help restaurants of every size and operational model in every community across the country—an industry that pre-COVID counted over one million locations—and more than 15.6 million employees, the second-largest private sector employer.



Reopening News Articles

July 28, 2021
Out of the frying pan into the fire

Restaurants are recovering from the pandemic, but rising food costs and supply shortages are causing new problems.

July 27, 2021
86 Food Waste: Engineer your menu to reduce waste

Take a look at how simple menu and service tweaks can reduce the amount of food you throw out each day.

July 26, 2021
Restaurant jobs remain below June 2019 levels in 46 states and DC

All 50 states and DC added restaurant jobs in June, but staffing levels remained dampened in nearly every state.

July 16, 2021
Restaurant sales continued to rise in June

Consumers ramped up their restaurant spending during the first half of 2021.

July 14, 2021
Take a tax break for hiring the unemployed

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit can help offset your hiring costs

July 8, 2021
Updated Operating Guidelines cover new OSHA employee protections

Latest version, our 6th edition, incorporates new OSHA recommendations for vaccinated/unvaccinated workers

July 8, 2021
Research chief Riehle looks at current state of the industry

As restaurants recover from the pandemic, labor shortages and commodity prices are painful, but things are looking up.

July 7, 2021
Restaurant employment recovery continued as openings hit a record high

Restaurant employment continued to rise in June, but the industry was only able to fill a fraction of the available job openings.

July 1, 2021
Get a handle on disposable gloves: Protect yourself and your guests

Key lesson: Gloves never take the place of proper handwashing.

June 30, 2021
Back to business: Pandemic influences Essie’s menu

Comfort foods are here to stay; staffing shortages require controlled customer counts for now.

June 24, 2021
49 states and DC added restaurant jobs in May 2021

Only 4 states – Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota – have seen restaurant employment return to pre-pandemic levels.

June 24, 2021
State associations, Kitchen Cabinet get industry employees vaccinated

Events, videos, ad campaigns, free giveaways all work to get workforce on board with shots.

June 23, 2021
Cultural differences can be hard to talk about

Leaders who can get comfortable having tough conversations build more trust among employees.

June 23, 2021
Tapping the teen market

What does Generation Z want from a job?

June 17, 2021
Women entrepreneurs set the table for success

The founding members of Let’s Talk Womxn share their experiences and expectations for the future

June 15, 2021
Joining the MOD Squad is a leap of faith and HOPE

Career opportunities knock as fast-casual pizza company opens doors for justice-involved youth.

June 15, 2021
Restaurant sales continue to trend higher

A new survey indicates consumers have yet to get their fill of restaurants, which means the positive sales trajectory has more room to run.

June 10, 2021
Back to business: Reopening strategies at Walk-Ons

The Louisiana franchisor opened 12 units during the pandemic and used limited capacity as an employment strategy.

June 4, 2021
Restaurants added jobs for the fifth consecutive month

Eating and drinking places are still 1.5 million jobs below pre-pandemic staffing levels.

June 3, 2021
What You Need to Know About PPP Loan Forgiveness

In key webinar takeaways, experts walk you through how to get lenders to approve your PPP loan forgiveness applications.

June 2, 2021
Taking pride in finding the right employees

TransCanWork, a nonprofit founded by a transgender restaurant executive, is helping the community succeed in business.

May 27, 2021
Restaurants focus on vaccination policy, more tech, outdoor dining

Our Association’s State Affairs VP shares his insights on a post-pandemic industry.

May 26, 2021
Association, AICPA partner on RRF budget tracking tool

This easy-to-use spreadsheet will help you track expenses to facilitate SBA’s validation process for RRF grant expenditures.

May 25, 2021
Restaurants offer a shot in the arm to vaccination programs

Incentives such as paid time off encourage employees to get vaccinated

May 21, 2021
Summer hiring likely to be challenged by a shallow labor pool

While the restaurant industry is expected to expand payrolls this summer, it will likely be a mix of both coronavirus recovery and seasonal jobs.

May 21, 2021
Restaurant jobs remain below pre-pandemic levels in 49 states and DC

The District of Columbia, Vermont, New York and Hawaii have the largest deficits from their pre-coronavirus employment levels.

May 18, 2021
Darden’s leaders talk about diversity at the management level

In part two of our discussion, Clarence Otis and Gene Lee explain how to make industry careers look accessible and appealing to diverse candidates.

May 14, 2021
Consumers ramped up their restaurant spending in April

While the impact of stimulus checks will fade in the coming months, economic fundamentals remain conducive for continued spending growth.

May 11, 2021
What a difference a year makes: Trends born of the pandemic might endure

Operators talk about changes they made, and how they’ll affect business forever.

May 7, 2021
Restaurants added 187k jobs in April

More than 8 in 10 restaurant operators say their staffing levels are lower than what they would normally be in the absence of COVID-19.

May 5, 2021
Darden leaders Otis and Lee talk state of industry employment

The casual dining chain’s former and current CEOs share thoughts on how restaurants can attract more talent.

May 4, 2021
POS partners help generate required reports for RRF grant applications

Good news for restaurant owners hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic: Relief funds just for small hospitality businesses.

May 2, 2021
ERTC for small business expanded to include all of 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit to Dec. 31.

April 30, 2021
Rachael Ray Foundation grants boost ProStart culinary programs

Culinary icon’s charitable arm donates $135K to 27 schools across the country.

April 28, 2021
How to apply for a Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant

Our new step-by-step resource guides you through the application process.

April 27, 2021
Keep those safety measures going as you reopen

Patrick Guzzle, VP of Food Science and Industry, talks about vaccines, safety protocols, and the importance of handwashing.

April 22, 2021
On Earth Day, a look at local sourcing during the pandemic

Industry experts look at sustainability and sourcing more than a year since COVID-19’s onset.

April 21, 2021
A motherlode of Mother’s Day dining ideas

With necessity the mother of invention, eateries find creative ways to celebrate May 9.

April 20, 2021
Association looks ahead to industry’s recovery

Public Affairs conference focuses on how bipartisanship in the House and Senate could help business.

April 19, 2021
Innovating during the pandemic: Perfecting the pizza play

COVID-19 impacts two Chicago pizzerias’ approaches to menu and operation generating changes good enough to keep.

April 16, 2021
49 states and DC added restaurant jobs in March

Despite the broad-based gains, restaurant employment remains below pre-pandemic levels in every state.

April 15, 2021
Restaurant sales rose sharply in March

Warmer weather and additional stimulus payments bolstered consumer spending in restaurants.

April 15, 2021
Brands talk pandemic’s impact on foodservice packaging

Execs from Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Taco Bell, and KFC discuss supply challenges, and the return of sustainability practices.

April 8, 2021
Innovating during the pandemic: Cracker Barrel, tradition transformed

Homestyle cooking and comfort food thrives off-premises, while updated technology makes ordering seamless.

April 7, 2021
New ServSafe tool tracks alcohol-to-go status in your state

In some instances, alcohol-to-go means beer and wine delivery only, but could also include liquor delivery, and may or may not include cocktails.

April 7, 2021
Association, SmartBrief announce innovation awards recipients

Check out these new products in the areas of sustainability, technology, and safety and health.

April 2, 2021
Innovating during a pandemic: Shari’s taps today’s trends

Shari’s boosted sales through outdoor dining, emphasis on comfort, plus a virtual burger brand and pie-of-the-month program.

April 2, 2021
Restaurant employment rose for the third consecutive month

Despite the recent gains, eating and drinking places are still 1.8 million jobs below their pre-pandemic employment level.

April 1, 2021
RRF grant applications won’t require a DUNS number

The National Restaurant Association asked the SBA to streamline the process to prevent administrative complexity.

March 31, 2021
Join us for the 35th annual Public Affairs Conference

This year’s theme focuses on uniting our industry’s voices, especially in the throes of the pandemic.