COVID-19: Are UK Pubs and Restaurants Ready to Reopen?

The hospitality sector has been amongst the hardest hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, with just 11% of businesses able to operate normally.

With 99% of hospitality businesses classed as SMEs and 67% of people in the UK expecting it to be “months” before they will visit a restaurant again, there is tremendous uncertainty over how many businesses will survive the pandemic.

It is vital for the future of the UK’s restaurants and pubs that a phased reopening happens as soon as possible, and there are reassuring examples from elsewhere in Europe that this can be achieved safely and successfully.

What is the government’s policy for restaurants and pubs reopening?

On May 13th, the government announced its multi-phase lockdown-easing plan which set estimated milestones for reopening of various businesses, subject to change depending upon the spread of the disease.

July 4th was set as the date that pubs and restaurants could begin serving customers on site, but this has not yet been confirmed.

There was recent speculation that the reopening could be sped up to June 22nd, following a report by the Financial Times that cabinet members (the “Save Summer Six”) were pushing for an accelerated timetable, but this now seems unlikely.

More optimistic news comes from reports that Robert Jenrick – Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – is looking at ways to relax planning laws with “blanket permissions” for licensed businesses to use public squares and other pedestrian areas to make it easier for pubs and restaurants to utilise outdoor space.

With less than three weeks until the provisional reopening date, industry membership group UK Hospitality has urged the government for clarity so that businesses can make preparations. They noted it is especially important for hotels to be able to plan in advance, as the average time between booking and arrival is just two weeks.

What would a phased reopening look like?

Many restaurant and pub chains have revealed details of what eating and drinking during the pandemic might look like, drawing from examples elsewhere in Europe such as Paris and Berlin where reduced social distancing and utilisation of outdoor space has allowed many eating and drinking establishments to resume business.

If the July 4th reopening goes ahead, pubs and restaurants must start putting policies in place immediately to plan for running business as effectively as possible while abiding by social distancing policy.

With the public understandably very wary about visiting busy social hubs, food and drink businesses must find ways to reassure their customers as much as possible if they are to operate during the pandemic.

At Magenta Security, we have offered COVID-19 risk assessments to many businesses that have continued to operate or have reopened over lockdown to ensure that they staff and customers are protected.

We have extended this service to address the unique challenges of hospitality businesses and can offer risk assessments and advice immediately to any business that needs it.

Please get in touch on 0800 772 3786 to find out more.

Statistics provided by UK Hospitality.

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