Yesterday the government started to outline their roadmap for easing the Covid-19 lockdown which includes hints that re-opening hospitality businesses may be in the pipeline over the next few months. What form this will take is unclear, as is whether it will happen at all, but if it does happen it’s almost certainly going to require fairly stringent social distancing measures to be enforced, and may only be viable for certain businesses that can guarantee that customers can be safe.
Many pubs and restaurants have pivoted their businesses to remain open during the lockdown, with many utilising delivery and collection as a way to do that. We’ve got an article on how hospitality businesses can keep going throughout the lockdown here, as well as an eCommerce solution for cafes, pubs and restaurants to help them to take orders online. This is all vital for many businesses to do right now, but it’s probably also a really good time to start planning, at least vaguely, how your business could adapt to relaxed government guidelines when it happens (hopefully) later this year.
It’s a fairly safe bet that when pubs and restaurants are able to re-open, it will incorporate some kind of restriction on interior spaces. So if your business has an outside space, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how you can use it exclusively. Tables will most likely need to be distanced by at least 2 metres. Customer capacities will be based on how many seats can be set out whilst maintaining safe distances as well as staffing capacities.
If you are able to seat customers outside, you’ll need to think about how that trade can be maintained even if the weather isn’t so great, which means coverings, waterproof furniture, and outdoor heaters are all considerations.
In other countries, public spaces have been given over to hospitality businesses to use in lieu of being able to open their usual venue. Whether this is something the government will consider remains to be seen.
The way food is prepared and served will likely need to change, as servers won’t be able to get close enough to set down plates and drinks with social distancing still in place, which will mean customers either collecting food from a designated station or a tray set out on a tray-jack.
Plates, Cutlery, Glasses
Hygiene will be of utmost importance if pubs and restaurants are eventually allowed to reopen under ongoing Covid circumstances. It’s worth thinking about the possibility that businesses may have to provide single-use plates/food containers and glasses. This will have an environmental impact, so recyclable materials would be a consideration. Disposable glasses, cutlery and plates would also making clearing and cleaning much easier, but will produce a lot of extra waste.
Minimising the human contact between the process of food preparation to serving will be a priority, which means that minimal levels of staffing will be required to carry out cooking, serving and taking orders / payment. Staffing should be proportional to the amount of covers available. Separate bathroom, and hygiene provision will need to be made for staff and training will be essential.
Payment will likely need to be made by contactless methods only, which includes phones as well as cards. A payment station will need to be set up allowing this to happen whilst maintaining a 2 metre distance.
By law, all licensed hospitality businesses need to provide toilet facilities, but it would be difficult to justify their use right now, but who knows how this could be regulated! It’s a case of wait-and-see. This is quite a difficult one that could really affect the viability of reopening businesses at all, seeing how essential toilet facilities are. If they are required, they would need to be stocked with hand gel, and possibly continuously and rigorously maintained by a cleaner. Considering the essential nature of toilets and their widespread use in all kinds of businesses, it would surely be possible to find a workable solution.
It’s going to be difficult for many people to adapt to new ways of doing things, and you’ll need to always assume that communication is required to instruct people on how your service operates. Ensure that tables have cards that explain how measures are implemented.
With drinking comes a lack of inhibition and that means social distancing goes out the window pretty quickly! It’s possible that government could limit pubs and restaurants to non-alcoholic beverages or place restrictions on the quantity sold. Again, who knows!
These are just a few thoughts to help you to start thinking and planning for how you could re-open when the time finally comes. We hope that time is sooner rather than later and our thoughts are with you during these difficult times. These ideas just scratch the surface of the many logistical challenges that social distancing creates. If you’ve got any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to share in the comments below.