Ready to reopen? Guidance for UK pubs and restaurants
Re-opening pubs and restaurants after lockdown can’t be treated as standard. Proprietors and managers need to look at this as though they are opening for the first time, with a particular emphasis on health and safety.
Hospitality businesses have faced a difficult time, following months of compulsory closures due to the Covid-19 lockdown. But now, pubs and restaurants in England are set to open with outside seating only from the 12th April 2021. In Scotland, hospitality venues will be able to reopen on the 26th April 2021, as part of the levels system. Neither Wales or Northern Ireland have yet confirmed dates for proposed re-openings.
Make sure that all beer lines and dispensing machines are cleaned thoroughly and anywhere that is going to see a high volume of people, customers or employees, receives a deep clean. With social distancing rules limiting the space that bars and restaurants can use, many venues are looking at making greater use of their outdoor space, but this must be done by applying existing Health & Safety rules.
Whether it is more outdoor furniture or using car parking space for extra seating, it is important that the normal rigour around health and safety is applied. Anything less could result in injuries to employees or customers and leave operators exposed to liability claims.
Public liability policies cover the use of pavements, gardens, terraces, marquees and similar outdoors areas for additional seating as standard. If businesses are adapting spaces such as car parks, it’s important to consider how these will be accessed and if one-way systems are required to help aid social distancing.
If there are uneven surfaces or steps, make sure there are signs reminding customers to be careful. Policyholders should also be aware that additional planning permissions or licencing requirements may be required, such as when placing seating on public pavements.
Try to understand where the highest footfall and concentration of people is likely to be. This is almost certainly going to be different than normal, so try to map it out and understand how you will be able to maintain the necessary social distancing while providing adequate hand washing and sanitation services.
Of course, it is one thing to plan and other entirely to execute, which is why staff training is going to be more important than ever. There is a lot to consider from an employee perspective, but the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produceda Covid-19 Risk Assessment guide that should help owners and managers map out how to keep employees and customers safe.
Whatever approach is taken, it is important that any training and consultation with employees is delivered consistently and recorded. While it is clear the Government wants pubs and restaurants open as much as the rest of us, they want it done safely.
To do that, they have increased the HSE budget to provide extra capacity to get inspectors out to venues to evaluate their performance and they do, of course, have the teeth to take enforcement action. And it stands to reason that the police will also be paying close attention to the opening of our pubs and restaurants to ensure it is being done safely.
In short – make sure you are planning and executing the opening of your premises properly and are recording all the measures taken and the training given to employees. But for any re-opening plan to work, customers need to be on board too.
That means plenty of signage and reminders across the premises making it clear what customers are expected to do in regard to maintaining hygiene – hand washing and sanitising, social distancing and where and when to wear face coverings.