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Guidance for restaurants and pubs during COVID-19

The level of responsible behaviour exhibited by businesses and organisations is a key factor as the UK continues to attempt to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. For restaurants, pubs, and takeaway or delivery services, the seriousness of the situation cannot be understated. In an industry in which employees are not only interacting in close proximity with customers and guests, but also handling their food and beverages, extensive precautionary measures are necessary.

Many of the safety measures that the owners and operators of restaurants and pubs must implement are similar to that of other businesses or organisations, but there are also some more specific concerns to be addressed.

Reducing Contact

One of the most important changes that should be implemented, compared to normal operations before the pandemic, is for a restaurant or pub to provide safer, less crowded conditions in which employees and guests interact with one another at greater distances.

Establishments should reduce the number of guests allowed on the premises at any on time. Additionally, tables and seating should be arranged to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Do not allow customers to crowd around the bar or in other areas.

Restaurants and pubs may also benefit from staggering entry or seating times in order to better regulate how many guests are present at any one time. In the event that customers are queueing, the queue should be located outside. Owners and operators should work with local authorities, landlords, neighbouring businesses and other relevant parties in order to regulate the queue.

Dining and Drinking

The actual dining or food ordering experience may be very different during the pandemic. Owners and operators of these establishments should consider the following steps in order to minimise risks to both their employees and their customers:

  • Maintain a distance of at least 2m, or 1m when other risk mitigation is in place, while taking orders.
  • Minimise customer contact regarding food, cutlery and condiments, such as by providing cutlery and condiments only after an order has been placed.
  • Provide only disposable condiments, or clean non-disposable condiment containers after every use.
  • Reduce contact with surfaces by asking customers to remain at their tables and not to lean on counters while waiting for an order.
  • Encourage contactless payment methods, and adjust the location of card readers for social distancing purposes.
  • When applicable, encourage customers to order online or ahead of time to reduce queues and potential congestion.
  • Increase outdoor seating availability, and encourage customers to utilise outdoor areas when possible.

Managing Facilities

There are a number of steps that restaurants, pubs and other food services should take in regard to facility management.

Ventilation systems should be a part of any COVID-19-related precautions. Greater airflow and fresh air can help to mitigate the risk of spreading germs. In order to optimise a ventilation system, consider the following guidance:

  • Increase the existing ventilation rate by adjusting the fan speed.
  • Utilise the ventilation system any time that there are people in the building.
  • Monitor and manage filters in accordance with manufacturer instructions.
  • Keep doors and windows open if possible.
  • Use ceiling fans or desk fans to improve air circulation, provided there is good ventilation.

Establishments should also address customer restrooms in their plans. Customers should be encouraged to use good hygiene practices, such as proper handwashing. In addition, queues for restrooms should be managed more strictly. It may be necessary to use floor markings to encourage social distancing or to allow only one person inside a restroom at a time.

Keeping Things Clean

As a restaurant, pub or other food service, it has always been important for the establishment to be clean. But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, that priority should be even higher.

When it comes to the venue as a whole, the following steps should be considered:

  • Follow government guidance on cleaning food preparation and food service areas.
  • Prop doors open, where appropriate, to reduce touchpoints. This does not apply to fire doors.
  • Clean objects and surfaces that are regularly touched frequently, including counters and tills.
  • Clean surfaces and objects such as tables, card machines, chairs, trays and menus between each customer use.
  • Consult this specific guidance if conducting cleaning after a known or suspected COVID-19 case.
  • Clean work areas and equipment between uses.
  • Provide extra rubbish bins for workers and customers to dispose of single-use face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE).

For the kitchen area, these additional precautions should be taken:

  • Provide bins for collection of used towels and staff overalls.
  • Instruct employees to wash their hands before handling plates or cutlery.
  • Require frequent handwashing.

In addition to these specific measures, general hygiene guidelines should be strictly enforced and provided for. Establishments should provide ample handwashing, hand sanitising and hand drying facilities, and require their regular use. It is also recommended that signs and posters be used in order to remind both employees and customers of these practices.

Other cleaning procedures—such as doing laundry or handling goods arriving on shared vehicles—should also be assessed and enhanced.

Staying Cautious

As the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 cases looms, restaurants, pubs, and takeaway or delivery services have an immense amount of responsibility to maintain—to both their employees and their customers. Whether it be through limiting capacity, rearranging the premises, altering the dining experience or establishing new cleaning procedures, it is of the utmost importance that these establishments take all necessary precautions.

Additionally, businesses should assist the NHS in its efforts to trace cases of COVID-19. Owners and operators should maintain a temporary record of customers and guests over the preceding 21 days, including their names and contact information. In the event that someone who has been on the premises tests positive for COVID-19, being able to reach others who may have come into contact with that person may help to contain an outbreak.

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