The hospitality industry is not immune to crises, we have persevered through many in our history. Most notably; 9/11, SARS, the economic downturn of ‘08 and the recession that followed. More recently we have been impacted by trade wars & tariffs affecting our supply chain and have faced the great impacts of rising operational costs - particularly in labour, utilities and rent as well as food & beverage products. We believe that all these past challenges have provided us with the strength, the resolve and the experience to draw upon and apply to our current reality. It is our intent to not only survive but thrive in the post-pandemic world.

The purpose of Charcoal Group’s “Return to Operations Playbook” is to communicate our decisions, measures and values to our Stakeholders – who are our Guests, Team Members, Communities, Shareholders & Supply Chain. We have taken both Public Health guidelines & Ontario law as the minimum standard upon which we have built our plans. It is important for us to underline that the many of these practices are what we have always done, some have been adjusted for post-Covid requirements and comforts. The majority of these measures are not new to our operations, however our Guests may not be aware of these points of execution.

It is our hope in also sharing this guide with our hospitality peers, that we will make an impact in helping to lift our industry out of this dark time, as quickly as possible.

-Jody Palubiski, CEO


We are all in this together - Our Team Members, Our Managers, Our Communities, Our Supply Chain, Our Shareholders - therefore we all must be ‘passionate & driven to win’. We are ‘one team’ / ’one gang’ / ’one tribe’ and as such, we promise each other the following three things: Commitment, Total Team Effort & Winning Mindset.

In addition to being ‘Passionate Team Members Driven to Win’, Managers have taken on the added responsibility of being ‘Focused, Professional Management’. With this tenet it is incumbent on all Managers & Chefs to deliver on the following four promises to each and every Team Member; Clear & Timely Direction, Proper Preparation, Support for Success and A Sense of Belonging.

Food & Beverage are the foundation of our business. Beginning with products arriving at our back door, we can never settle for anything less than the absolute best, then it is up to us. The respect, care and reverence that we display in the execution of our menus elevates them to a higher level. In order to do this with consistency, we must focus on; Exceptional Quality, Living Local, Inspired Creativity, Compelling & Differentiating, Systems & Standards, Cleanliness & Hygiene.

Charcoal Group’s brand of hospitality goes deeper than a two-dimensional, transactional type of service. Our role is not only to feed and quench the thirst of our Guest but also to ‘make their day’ and ‘fill their souls’. A Guest who is having a bad day is not an inconvenience – this is an opportunity to make an impact.

In our businesses, ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’. Contributing to the overall cleanliness and shine in all areas of the restaurant is a crucial part of every Team Member’s role. Cleaning duties are built into daily duties completed before, during and after service periods – for all positions. Cleaning as you go, never “dumping” and picking up garbage, both inside the restaurant and outside, are ways we keep our restaurants looking great, and create a safe atmosphere for both Guests and our Team.

It is our goal to be an active and positive force in our communities. We operate attractive, clean and safe restaurants and strive to be a leader where environmental initiatives are concerned. We strongly believe in supporting to the community that supports us. As a successful business, it is our responsibility to be a positive force in our community. We work with all levels of educational institutions to create the next generation of hospitality professionals and we promote Charcoal Group as a great place to have a career.

We value the partnerships we have built with our suppliers and all of the individuals that comprise our supply chain. Like all positive relationships we must all do what we agreed to do, help one another, and work together to improve our businesses. We must negotiate mutually beneficial agreements and live up to both their letter and spirit. Great relationships also take timely, truthful and constructive communication to keep one another informed.

We ask our supplier partners to do their work on time, provide us with the very best products available and be there for us during times of emergencies. In turn, we order respectfully/thoughtfully, we pay them on time and show respect by using and maintaining their products and services. We share expertise and respect each other’s needs and time. Our goal is to build and maintain long-term win/win partnerships with all of our suppliers.

We must operate our restaurants in a fashion that creates pride as well as a desire on behalf of the Shareholders to expand our group of restaurants and thereby create positive opportunities for us all. By tirelessly working to achieve Our Mission daily as well as consistently generating a superior return on investment, we will achieve this


Charcoal Group enhanced policies surrounding hygiene:

  • Handwashing is completed thoroughly, regularly and purposefully;

  • Handwashing is not something new to us, however, we must be more diligent and much more frequent than ever in this regard.

  • Handwashing stations will be supplied with both liquid soap and hand sanitizer at all times – in all Guest & Team Member areas.

  • Hand sanitizer will also be available for both Guest and Team Member use throughout our restaurants’ dining areas as well at our front and back entrances. CG restaurants will have some bottles available for purchase, proceeds will be donated to local hospital foundations in the communities we serve.

  • As a reminder, proper handwashing includes frothy soap, warm water, and scrubbing vigorously while singing happy birthday twice through (or a minimum of 20 seconds)

  • Team Members must wear their hair tied back, regardless of length, and refrain from touching their face. Should any uniform or grooming adjustments be required during a shift, this is to be done in staff areas only - followed by a thorough handwashing.

  • Team Members are asked to bring as few personal belongings as possible into the restaurant on each shift. Whenever possible, ideally only the items needed for uniform and tools.

  • • Stylus pens will be available for all TMs & Managers to use on shared touch screen devices

  • These will be a personal uniform tool to reduce contact with higher touch point equipment

  • TMs who choose not to use a stylus on touch screens must wash or sanitize their hands before touching any screens or shared POS equipment.

  • Sanitization of all phones, POS & reservation devices as well as high touch point areas will occur every 30 minutes (at a minimum).

  • Staff are cued to clean these areas by our playlists:

  • “Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer & “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” by The Georgia Satellites will play alternatively every 30 minutes as an audio ‘cue’

  • Handheld credit & debit terminals to be sanitized after every use.

  • We have adjusted our standard disinfectant to an anti-viral + anti-bacterial product; Oxivir Tb RTU (supplied by Diversey). This will be used for sanitation of POS equipment, tables, furniture and all ‘high-touch’ areas of our restaurants.

  • Table cleaning has been split into a 3-step process, and we have introduced the use of table cleaning caddies with colour coded clothes for wiping table surfaces (blue) vs chairs/benches/ledges (red).

  • A thorough daily sanitization of our restaurants will occur prior to open, in addition to

frequent sanitizations of high-touch point surfaces throughout daily operations (every 30 minutes, at a minimum)

  • Our Guests will be very sensitive to cleanliness & hygiene. Anything that looks messy, or unkempt will translate to unclean in their minds. Therefore, all aspects of uniform & grooming, as well any ‘high-touch’ surfaces must be spotlessly clean, now more than ever.

  • We recommend that Team Members actively boost their immune systems by getting proper sleep, eating well, exercising and ensuring their weekly schedules are conducive to these activities.

  • All Team Members will wear both masks & eye protection until further notice.

  • Each CG Team Member will be provided with 2 uniform cloth masks each & additional masks will be available for purchase at cost for any TM who needs additional masks.

  • Ontario Ministry of Health has promoted the following face covering recommendations:

  • face coverings must safely and snugly fit to cover the nose and mouth, without any gaps;

  • face coverings should be made of at least two layers of tightly woven material, which can also be cleaned multiple times without losing its shape;

  • face coverings should not be placed on anyone who has trouble breathing

  • Eye protection consists of approved goggles or a medical grade face shield. Eye protection must be worn when working a station less than 6 feet from another Team member and/or when Guests are in-house.

  • Gloves are available to any Team Member who wishes to use them, however these are not mandated. Any TM who chooses to wear gloves must change their gloves as often as they would wash their hands (i.e. between tasks, transactions or when changing duties).

  • Our culinary team will be protected with additional uniform requirements;

  • A face mask (as outlined above),

  • A reusable, medical-grade plastic face shield or plastic goggles,

  • Dishwashers will also wear long rubber aprons

  • Team Members must complete a symptom screen upon arriving at work. Any TM who is displaying COVID symptoms or feeling unwell (for any other reason) should not come into work. Managers reserve the discretion to send home any Team Member who demonstrates any sign(s) of visible illness – these TMs will be required to remain away from work until they are healthy.

  • Our Team Member ‘call in’ procedure remains in place; we ask for 4 hours minimum notice & for TMs to attempt to cover their shift. TMs must speak directly with a Manager on duty when they call in & not leave any form of message.

  • This applies to all positions and all levels of our organization.

  • All TMs must be aware of the symptoms of Covid-19, which include:

  • Fever, new onset of cough, chills, unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, pink eye, digestive issues (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain) runny or congested nose, loss of smell or taste, headache

  • TMs who feel they are exhibiting COVID19 symptoms should take a self- assessment @ covid19checkup.ca

  • Any TM who is showing signs of COVID at anytime should self-isolate, inform their manager and seek testing.

  • All Team Member schedules will be tracked & recorded at all times, in all levels of our organization.

  • Team Member travel continues to be strongly discouraged at this time. Any TM who chooses to travel outside of Ontario, will be requested to self-isolate & will not be allowed to return to work for 14 days after their return.

  • Physical distancing measures within our restaurants will comply with current government regulations.

  • CG floor icons will mark proper spacing approaching our front doors, within the front lobbies & at the host desks.

  • Proper spacing techniques will be employed to ensure space between Guests of different groups in all areas of the restaurant including seats at bar tops.

  • 1 measuring tape will be kept at each location’s host stand to ensure proper spacing.

  • When specified spacing is not possible, Plexiglass or tempered glass will be utilized to create physical barriers.

  • Team Members will space from one another as much as possible and will keep any required 'close' interactions as brief as possible. In positions where consistent TM sspacing is not possible, out PPE requirements will enhance team ssafety.

  • We anticipate Public Health guidelines & regulations to change frequently in the coming months. We are committed to adjusting our practices as required but will keep in place any measures that we feel enhance Guest and Team safety, beyond legal requirements.

  • With the regional approach to reopening Ontario, we are committed to staying apprised of the rules in each Public Health Region we serve. Each region's regulations vary, therefore our execution of these guidelines may look slightly different from region to region.

  • We ask Guests who are feeling unwell (for any reason), do not physically visit our restaurants, but instead consider ordering contactless curb-side pick-up

  • Guests are asked to comply with provincial and local mask regulations. Guests may only remove mask while seated & must 'mask up' upon entry, departure, while using the washrooms and when picking up take-out.

  • Due to capacity limitations, Guests are recommended to make reservations in advance of joining our restaurants if the restaurant is accepting reservations.

  • Guest must complete a symptom screen & submit contact information upon entry as per Public Health/Government requirements. All guests are required to comply with this regulation. Information will be kept secure for a period of 30 days & will only ge provided to Public Health upon request.

  • Guests are requested to dine only with memebers of their immediate household.

  • For the above 2 reasons, all Guests are requested to check-in at the front desk upon entering the restaurant, and allow us to seat you, no matter where you intend to sit.

  • Guests will be offered the choice of a 1-time use recyclable paper menu or view our digital menu via their own personal mobile device.

  • We maintain our belief that ‘straws suck’, so we have taken one step back in our straw policy to provide compostable, paper wrapped, paper straws - in place of our previous natural hay straw. Straws will continue to be served upon request only.

  • Our table set-ups, coffee settings and check presentation standards have all been adjusted to focus on providing exactly what our Guests need, when they need it. ‘Nothing before, and nothing more.’

  • Our restaurant capacities will be monitored & maintained per current government regulations.

  • We will communicate clearly with all Guests about measures in place in our dining rooms:

  • Tables we are unable to seat will be clearly marked with CG signage

  • Guests we are unable to accommodate in the restaurant (due to capacity) will be offered a ‘Sorry we can’t seat you’ card and offered take-home ordering. We will also offer to make these Guests a reservation for another day/time.

  • Handwashing signs are posted in all washrooms (for both Guests & Staff)

  • All water and coffee service ‘refills’ will not be poured at the tableside, but instead will be pre-poured & presented in a fresh cup with each refill.

  • Table clearing techniques have been slightly altered to focus on ‘clearing with intent’ - in as few steps as possible.

  • All dirty dishware will be taken directly to the designated washing area(s) for cleaning/sanitization, followed by a thorough handwashing.

  • TMs will handle all glassware from the bottom-half, plates on the outermost rims & cutlery from the handles only. Thorough handwashing will be completed before handling any clean dishware, and after handling any used dishware.

  • Guests who would like to pack up their remaining meal to take home, will be provided with an appropriately sized compostable take-out container to package their own meal at the table.

  • All CG restaurants now offer enhanced, contactless curb-side pick-up/take-out programs:

  • Online ordering with contactless curb-side pick-up now available

  • Alcoholic beverages now available for takeout with purchase of any food item

  • All prepared food items will be sealed with a CG sticker once order is final, in takeout container

  • “We Over Me”:

  • Our team must be focused and prepared to support each other in new and different ways, at all levels of our organization. This is particularly important with respect to flexibility of roles, schedules & daily duties. For example; Servers & Bartenders assist with host & take-out shifts, everyone participates in cleaning & supporting dishwashers and beyond.

  • CG Cultural Events:

  • Our main goal initially is to build our business back in order to call all TMs back to work as soon and as safely as possible. We will need to carefully reinvest into our businesses to make this a reality – for the time being, we will defer internal cultural events until our team is back in whole, most notably the 2020 CG Awards.

  • “Act as if”:

  • A Server acting as if their family was at the table may take a little more time engaging with them. A cook acting as if they were making dinner for their kids or parents will put a little more care into that dish.

  • Our Leaders acting as if the restaurant is their business with their personal finances on the line, will take every point of information into account and make fair balanced decisions that impact our Guests, team and business in the right way.

  • Open Line of Communication:

  • Now more than ever, it is imperative that we have clear, timely & open communication with each other. Anyone who has a question or concern, should direct this to their reporting Manager with urgency. Managers are prepared to give reasoned answers.

  • Proper preparation will be provided in advance of any changes, as well as support for success throughout operations.

  • There is no such thing as a ‘silly’ question – if you don’t know, or need clarity on something, the onus is on you to ask the question.

  • o The Covid Jar:

  • Any CG Team Member/Manager who does any of the following during their shift is asked to put a quarter in the Covid Jar;

  • Touch your face/hair/mask

  • PDAs (Handshakes, High-Fives, Hugs w/ other TMs or Guests)

  • Not sanitizing debit/credit terminals after each use

  • As we all know, old habits die hard - so we made a game out of helping each other build new, more impactful habits. It is our hope that through diligence, very few quarters are put in the jar.

  • Any Covid Jar proceeds will be donated to local hospital foundations in the communities we serve.

  • Outside of work:

  • TMs are asked to wash all uniform elements after each shift, in preparation for the next shift in a fully clean uniform with sanitized tools.

  • Stay Physically Healthy!

  • Meticulous handwashing is just as important when you are not at work. When handwashing is not possible, use hand sanitizer, and always avoid touching your face.

  • Continue with physical distancing measures and stay attuned to Public Health recommendations that apply to your life outside of work. We will continue to monitor and communicate to the team as measures are changed or relaxed in the coming weeks & months.

  • Boost your immune system through proper sleep, eating well, exercising and ensuring weekly schedules are conducive to these activities.

  • ▪ Stay Financially Healthy!

  • Continue to focus on only essential expenditures – to be sure, track your spending.

  • Keep up with personal budgeting – No plan = problems!

  • If you haven’t already, reach out to your financial institutions & utility providers to ask for help with fees, any offered discounts, or other cost relief measures. Ask for ‘back pay’ to mid-March when emergency measures were put into place. Always read the ‘fine print’.

  • Be wary of strong sales tactics, especially on higher value items. These will only come at a higher rate as the economy reopens – if you weren’t considering the large purchase before, and you don’t have the funds now, then the deal is likely too good to be true. Read the fine print!

  • SAVE your $$$!

  • CG Managers are subject to both adhere to and uphold all policies outlined in Charcoal Group Handbooks as well as this playbook, for as long as it remains in place either in full or part.

  • ‘Act as if’ (as noted above)

  • Readjusting Economics:

  • As in any business, there are many opportunities to cut costs however in our businesses, these measures will be focused on areas that will not visibly impact our Guests’ experience. Any expense of company dollars should be minimized and kept within the austerity measures listed below – not just in measure, but also in spirit.

  • Adjusting our hours of operation to allow for focus on specific service periods + expanded sanitization requirements

  • Sourcing quality, second-hand equipment and supplies whenever possible to save funds and reduce industry waste

  • Planned CG cultural events will be deferred for the time being

  • Adjusting the items available for staff and management meals (removing high cost items), but retaining the meal programs for the team

  • Reducing use of supervisor hours – adjusting management schedules & involving HQ/Operations Team into restaurant support

  • Amending/reducing rental items & subscription services (such as; window cleaning, mats, linen services, newspapers, courier & delivery services) – we will endeavour to pay our TMs to complete the most required of these tasks as a means of greater shift opportunity/earnings for our people

  • Lowering our carrying inventory of beverage products while maintaining our focus of never running out

  • ▪ Greater strategy around corporate donations

  • Reducing mileage costs spent through careful planning, carpooling & video calls/meetings wherever possible

  • ▪ We will focus on the right decisions, not the fastest decisions

  • Fact vs. fiction; our Managers will compare their beliefs against the numbers before finalizing decisions – we will stand back, pressure test assumptions & why we believe it to be true

  • We will carefully check our work & ensure we focus our use of time on the highest and best purpose

  • We will strictly follow the CG Capital Expenditure Policy and approval process. GMs will be the champions for this in their business.

  • ▪ Sales & Labour Projections:

  • We will continue to both forecast & track sales and labour costs on a daily & weekly basis through our SLP, as we always have. These projections will be prepared and submitted in advance of each week.

  • People Management:

  • Our ‘call-in’ procedures remain in place for anyone who is ill, at all levels of our organization. Our Managers and department leads must be prepared to cover shifts, jump in and help out and under higher need situations, communicate to our neighbouring restaurants as needed. We are committed to responding with a great sense of urgency to continue our operations at the highest level.

  • Managing visitors/suppliers in our building:

  • We will stay apprised of our suppliers’ own standards for their delivery staff safety and will communicate as needed to support their business goals.

  • People movement through our businesses back entrances will be restricted to Charcoal Group Team Members, Managers & Suppliers only.


Obviously, it is impossible for any of us to predict how long ‘social distancing’ and other COVID-19 protocols may be called for. While it is understandable that we all wish to ‘go back to normal’, our mindset must be that we will fully adopt these standards as if they are permanent – and many may be.

Going forward our success will not only depend on our ability to deliver extraordinary dining experiences – it will also be very dependent on our commitment to providing the safest and cleanest environments. We must ensure Our Guests and Our Team Members not only are safe, but also feel safe.

This moment in time is a true opportunity for our team to once again rise up together and be the very best in our industry. If we work together – and commit – we will win!

Onward and Upward!

-     Jody Palubiski
Partner & CEO Charcoal Group of Restaurants

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