Top Tips for Opening a Restaurant During a Pandemic


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I'm Emily — a resourceful mom but, if I'm being honest, a terrible prepper. It wasn't until I realized that...

Meet Emily

This blog was originally written for gethappypr.com. To get in touch with my agency, head to our website

Downtown Grand Rapids recently welcomed the first Tupelo Honey location in the Great Lakes region, and the HAPPY team couldn’t wait to plan our first grand opening event since the start of the pandemic. 

Tupelo Honey, an Asheville, NC based restaurant chain, offers scratch-made southern food and beautifully crafted beverages. It also features the cutest mix of southern-inspired decor and Grand Rapids-inspired art deco themes. 

Tupelo Honey’s opening landed 35 total media hits and more than 100 social media posts from local influencers.

Even with hundreds of grand opening events under our belts, we had yet to coordinate one during a pandemic. Here are a couple of strategies we used to help Tupelo Honey pull off a successful and safe grand opening. 

Make it Exclusive

We made a significant change from our usual grand opening strategy. Rather than inviting as many guests as possible to the main event, we had to obtain RSVPs and limit our outreach. This helped Tupelo Honey maintain social distancing and keep the restaurant at a safe capacity. 

Consequently, this strategy worked to our advantage. The invite-only event increased excitement about the new restaurant, and it gave Tupelo Honey the opportunity to run a social media giveaway. Followers shared on social media and entered their contact information for a chance to win an invitation to the VIP event. This effectively spread the word throughout the community and generated excitement ahead of the event.

Plan plenty of Zoom calls

While a couple of West Michigan news stations have started doing in-person interviews, others still use Zoom to interview guests on their shows. 

Thanks to quality internet and the restaurant’s adorable interior, we secured several virtual interviews ahead of the grand opening. For example, this interview was with previous HAPPY team member Meredith, who is now rocking the local ABC-affiliated morning news. 

The pandemic hasn’t been an easy time for most businesses (including HAPPY, which you can read about on Emily’s blog). However, businesses that innovate and find ways to attract customers safely are more likely to weather the storm. 

Have a grand opening, brand launch, or other event to promote? Drop us a note and we’ll be in touch if you’re a good fit!