Restaurant Safety in the Winter Months

Last updated on May 17th, 2024 at 10:01 am

Winter weather brings a whole new set of challenges for restaurant safety, including increased risk of slips and falls and power outages.

To ensure the safety of both customers a­­nd staff, it’s important for restaurants to take the following precautions during the winter months. By being proactive and taking the necessary steps to prepare for cold weather, restaurants can keep their customers and staff safe and minimize the impact of any disruptions caused by the snow and ice.

Parking Lot & Sidewalk Preparation

image of someone walking down a snow covered sidewalk

During the winter months, snow, ice, and salt accumulate in parking lots, drive-throughs, and on sidewalks. It is important to keep the exterior of your restaurant in working order, so customers continue to come.

Snow filled parking lots cut down on the number of vehicles and thus customers your business can accommodate. Likewise, slippery sidewalks can cause accidents for potential customers.  

Remember that a nicely plowed parking lot and neatly shoveled and salted walkways are a good indicator to the public that you are open for business.

Below are a few tips to help you keep customers coming even during those chilly, icy winter months.

  • Invest in snow removal equipment. Hire a plowing company to clear your parking lot or invest in the equipment needed yourself. By plowing parking lots and throwing down ice to eat away at any slippery ice, customers will feel safer for themselves and their vehicles.
  • Shovel, plow, or salt sidewalks around and leading up to your restaurant. Again, this is a fantastic way to make customers feel safe. This also helps cut down on the amount of debris customers and employees bring inside the restaurant when entering.
  • Place floor mats at the entrance of your restaurant to allow customers to clean their shoes off before tracking snow and slush into the building.
  • Drive-through lanes could be busier this time of year, so you should clear back any overgrown plants or tree branches. Visibility is key with your drive thru to improve the line of sight and reduce accidents. Also, be sure to clear away snow drifts and ice patches.
  • Provide adequate lighting in the restaurant, as well as the parking lot to improve visibility and reduce the risk of accidents.

Outdoor Patio Preparation

image of a snowcovered patio table and chairs

Outdoor seating is common in many restaurants. The option to sit outside on a beautiful summer day is a favorable one to many customers. However, when the cold season comes, patios tend to be vacant.

Most outdoor patios will be closed during the winter months depending upon your location and current weather conditions. Therefore, it is important to winterize your patio space. Below are a few tips for how to take care of your outdoor patio furniture.

  • Remove any patio furniture that can be damaged by snow, ice, or freezing temperatures. Clean and store items such as seat cushions, umbrellas, and wicker or wood furniture, to extend the life of these pricey products. For metal outdoor furniture, use your best judgement. Although, be aware that rusting and scratching can occur.
  • If you have an outdoor hose used for cleaning your patio or sidewalk, ensure that the tap is turned off and all the water is cleared out of the hose. Frozen water in the hose can cause cracking and serious damage.
  • For those businesses that want to continue patio use during the cold months, there are outdoor heating options to help make those spaces more welcoming. Outdoor patio heaters are designed to be used during the winter months. These units, along with outdoor fire pits, typically use propane to give off a warming amount of heat.

Interior Preparation

Winter weather means ice, snow, and slippery floors. Every restaurant needs to have a plan on how to deal with dirty walkways and slippery floors.

  • Keep your entrance doors, walkways, and hostess tables clean. Using brooms, mops, shovels, and other equipment clear away any slush from entrance areas so customers don’t track in much dirt. A clean entrance is also more inviting to potential sales.
  • Provide proper heating and insulation to keep the restaurant warm and comfortable for customers and staff.
  • Ensure that all heating equipment, such as heaters and fireplaces, are in proper working condition and are used safely.
  • Use floor signs when needed. Caution signage makes customers aware of slippery surfaces, cutting down on accidents.
  • Regularly sweep and mop restaurant dining rooms, kitchens, and restrooms as well. A clean restaurant can positively impact the customer experience.
  • Make sure all fire exits are clear and easily accessible in case of emergency.

How to Prepare for Power Outages

If you’re located in an area that deals with a lot of severe weather, such as blizzards, ice storms, or other winter weather storms, it is important to know how to keep your restaurant open and your equipment in ideal condition. These are just a few restaurant safety ideas on how to stay prepared when storms are brewing.

  • Keep thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
  • Invest in a backup generator. If you lose electricity in your area, hooking up a generator can help keep your equipment operating when others cannot. A backup generator can be used to keep refrigerated units running. This can help cut down on lost product due to product temperature issues.
  • Regularly have your heating system inspected by an HVAC specialist. Many HVAC maintenance vendors will do free or low-cost inspections of your furnace or heating system. This can be helpful in preventing issues before the colder weather really sets in.

What to do During Power Outages

Winter storms present the possibility of power outages that can be devastating to an unprepared restaurant. When a power outage has occurred, these tips can help you save products and money.

  • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed as much as possible. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, if the doors stay closed food will stay safe for:
    • 4 hours in a refrigerator
    • 48 hours in a FULL freezer
    • 24 hours in a HALF-FULL Freezer
  • During a prolonged power outage, use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible.
  • For extended outages, you may want to move perishable items, such as milk, butter, meats, and vegetables from the fridge to the freezer to keep them cold for much longer.

Stock Up on Winter Supplies

Bad weather conditions can not only impact your restaurant itself, but also the delivery trucks that provide you with your supplies and ingredients. Weather can be unpredictable. Winter storms and power outages can happen at any time. So, it is important to keep your restaurant fully stocked on certain supplies.

By stocking up on these materials, your restaurant can be ready for any obstacle during the winter months. These items are necessary to help your staff and business run properly during unforeseen circumstances.


By taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety and comfort of customers and staff, your restaurant can continue to operate successfully during the winter months. It’s always important to keep an eye on weather forecasts and adjust your restaurant’s operations if necessary.

Additionally, promoting these restaurant safety measures to customers through advertising or social media can also help to build trust and attract more business.

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