10 tips for re-opening your pub safely during COVID-19

10 tips for re-opening your pub, restaurant, bar or cafe safely during COVID-19

With pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes allowed to re-open this weekend (Saturday 4 July 2020), there’s a lot to consider before re-opening. The most important thing you will need to do is carry out a COVID-19 specific risk assessment which will highlight all the things you need to consider when re-opening and help you to create a plan to implement them.

If you have under 5 employees, you don’t need a written one but you will need to demonstrate you have put the correct procedures in place to minimise transmission and comply with social distancing, and that your employees understand them. Whilst it’s not a requirement to write it down, we’d recommend you have something written down so everyone knows where to find it and if you’re ever investigated you can demonstrate you carried one out.


For many, it may not be possible to re-open just yet. We’ve put our top 10 tips together below to help you consider how you could for re-open safely.


Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment

It’s your obligation to keep your customers and employees safe which means you must carry out a risk assessment before you reopen, this will be monitored by a Health and Safety Executive or the local authority and failure to carry one out could result in large fines. Carrying out a risk assessment, however, isn’t enough, you will need to put the measures in place to avoid the issues identified. You should share your risk assessment with your employees and have it on display in your pub or restaurant.


Calculate maximum number of customers

Before opening, you should calculate the number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines. Although the government has allowed the 2m social distancing rules to be relaxed to 1m


Reconfigure indoor and outdoor seating

In most cases, it’s unlikely that your pub, restaurant, bar or café will be suitable for your customers to be able to socially distance in as they currently are. You will need to reconfigure your outdoor and indoor seating to allow customers to socially distance, this may mean removing tables and chairs to create more space.


Reduce the need for queues

You should reduce the need for customers to queue inside your establishment. You could do this by offering table service only or utilising technology such as an app to take orders or asking customers to place their order by phone or email in advance. If queuing is unavoidable, you should encourage customers to queue outdoors, where practical and following the 1-2m social distancing guidance.


Communication with customers

Communicating with your customers is going to be key to re-opening your bar or pub. Some customers may be anxious, whilst others won’t care less. Either way, you need to be clear with customers about what they need to do when they come inside, how to place their order, where they need to queue, when they need to wash their hands, how the toilet facilities will work etc.

This could include simple signage and floor markings around your restaurant, implementing one-way systems or socially distanced members of staff explaining how everything works clearly before customers enters your pub or restaurant.

You will also need to limit gatherings of large groups, which may mean having difficult conversations with customers who are breaking the rules.

Where possible, contactless payment should be encouraged.


Hand-sanitising on entering and exiting

You should encourage customers to either wash their hands or hand sanitise when they enter and leave the building to prevent the spread of the virus. A simple sanitising station upon entering would do the job, although you may find a lot of customers are already prepared for this.


Keep soft play areas closed

If you have an indoor soft play area in your restaurant, you will need to keep this closed. If you have an outdoor play area, this will need to be managed carefully.


Minimise self-service to reduce transmission risk

If your restaurant usually allows customers to help themselves to condiments, cutlery etc. we would encourage you not to offer this as an option when you re-open to reduce the risk of transmission. Staff should bring cutlery and condiments out at the time food arrives or you could instead offer disposable condiments and cutlery. If this is not an option, you will need to clean your condiment bottles.


Regular cleaning and waste collection

Regular cleaning is already a high priority for hospitality businesses but it will be even more important when you re-open to minimise the spread of the virus. This will include cleaning more regularly and cleaning items you may not do that often such as door handles, condiment bottles etc.

You may also need to consider more waste facilities and more frequent collection, for example of the bins in toilets.


Minimise staff contact & PPE

You should try to minimise contact between kitchen workers, front of house staff and customers at all points of service. If you are serving less customers, you may need less staff but you will need to consider how your staff can follow social distancing guidelines too.

You should encourage back-to-back or side-to-side working where possible and create shift patterns that means each employee is only working with a few others. If your staff wear a uniform, these should be washed on site or you should encourage staff to change and wash their clothes as soon as they get home.

As with the opening of non-essential retail shops, you may want to provide your staff with PPE. Whilst it’s not compulsory for your team to wear face masks and PPE (unless your risk assessment shows it is needed, in which case you will need to provide it free of charge), it will help to reduce transmission and make them feel safer whilst dealing with customers. There are plenty of PPE options available such as face masks or face shields and if you are going to use disposable gloves, we’d encourage you to change them regularly.

You may also want to use screens around tills and counters.


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