Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Do you have a game plan? Hurricane Season is just around the corner

At the moment, the weather in Louisiana is mild, sunny and in the 80s, perfect for being outdoors, dining alfresco and enjoying the multitude of festivals Louisiana has to offer. But in the next few weeks, the temperatures of our tropical environment will reach heights known to fry bacon. You’ll break a sweat just walking from your front door to your car and lightweight clothing will be a must. Is it all coming back to you now?

Before the roads start to buckle and the Gulf of Mexico water rises to a temperature that makes hurricanes flourish, now is the time to get your affairs in order. The Louisiana Restaurant Association is reviewing and updating it emergency preparedness plan this month in advance of hurricane season.

If you haven’t already visited the Louisiana’s www.getagameplan.org, take five minutes now, and budget further time prior to June 1, the beginning of hurricane season. Business continuity planning is all too important to the restaurant industry, as we are in Tier 3 for re-entering an area impacted by a storm or other disaster. Following first responders and those restoring power, restaurants, grocers and food purveyors are next in line to return to feed those assisting in recovery, even before residents are allowed to come home. Contact your parish emergency preparedness office to get your re-entry placard. Requirements vary by parish.

We’ve been through this before. It should be second nature to all of us now, especially those of us who experienced Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav. But as time goes on without a major incident, our memories fade and we distance ourselves from the operational challenges of re-opening our doors following the worst of storms.

This is not the fun stuff, but necessary to reduce your losses. Here are a few things to do now, not when hurricane season is underway:

Call your insurance agent. Once hurricane season is in effect, it may be too late to alter or increase your coverage. Policies vary, so schedule an appointment with your agent to review your current coverage. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what’s covered and what’s not. Increase or add coverage accordingly.

Data Security. What will you do to secure your computers and point of purchase equipment? Customer receipts containing any credit card information may need to be batched out earlier than scheduled or POS systems that track payroll may require back up. Will you need to issue paper checks or direct deposit for your employees?

Reduce your food supplies. What do you do when you have a freezer full of food and an impending storm? If its hurricane season, which traditionally means business slows, reduce your food orders and don’t keep as much inventory on hand. If you find yourself in need of evacuation and you have food on hand, consider donating it to the local Fire Department as they stay during an event.

Secure the property.  When a hurricane enters the Gulf, plywood may be scarce and you may find yourself fighting residents for materials at the 11th hour at Lowe’s or Home Depot. This may be something to consider purchasing in advance and storing if you have the space.

Where are you headed? Do you know where you will go and where your employees will go? Cell phone numbers, email addresses and destination numbers on hand will help you reach your staff when the coast is clear and everyone on your team can return-to-work.

Clearly, this is not an extensive list. What do you recommend for restaurants to prepare for a hurricane?

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