Re-opening of the hospitality sector
13 July 2020
From 4 July, restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels in England have been able to open to the public. This news was highly anticipated by a sector that, along with tourism, has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 lockdown. Some sites such as nightclubs, music venues and indoor leisure spaces will, however, remain closed.
Industry estimates put job losses across the hospitality sector at some 500,000 to date, with further losses expected, especially for seasonal workers. The hope remains that the ability to start trading, albeit with adherence to strict social distancing and other health and safety requirements, will stem wholescale job losses and business closures over what would ordinarily be a highly profitable summer season.
What are the general requirements for re-opening?
Specific guidelines apply to the hospitality sector and we know that:
♣ Where possible, the 2 metre social distancing rule must continue to be observed
♣ Where 2 metre distancing is not possible, a 1 metre plus rule must be applied
♣ All indoor hospitality operations will be limited to table service only
♣ There should be minimal staff and customer interaction
♣ Businesses may be required to take the names and contact details of all visitors so they can contact traced if necessary
Many people are keen to get out to their local pubs, restaurants and coffee shops but the guidelines also raise many practical challenges for businesses.
By their very nature hospitality venues are places for the public to meet and enjoy themselves. With the necessary restrictions, the viability and profitability of businesses within the coronavirus reality will have to be seen, not least as struggling businesses incur further costs by readying their venues to make them as Covid-safe as possible. Practical considerations include:
Serving food and drink “at a distance”, perhaps at a ticketed collection point
Staff may have to wear face masks or visors where they are unable to maintain a 2 metre distance, stocks of these protective equipment will need to be maintained
Seating capacity will be reduced considerably as tables are re-organised to comply with the social distancing requirements
Could new technology such as apps to take customer orders be quickly implemented with all the necessary staff training?
How will venues ensure the sharing of names and contact details is done with respect to data protection and privacy laws?
Our Return to Work newsletter addressed some of the myriad of concerns facing employers when getting their staff back into the workplace. The hospitality sector in particular will face significant challenges in providing a safe working environment for their staff, especially where they are working in confined spaces such as kitchens, bars and points of sale:
Staff may need to be staggered or split into teams so employees are working with the same groups of people to minimise the risk of wide-spread infection across the workforce
Employment contracts will need to be checked to understand what changes to employment terms can be made, even if those changes are temporary
Employees will need to be consulted on any changes to their terms and conditions of employment such as changes to working hours, start and end times, pay and so on
♣ Rigorous risk assessments will need to be carried out looking at how to minimise risks when taking orders, serving food, using appliances, handling protective equipment
What plans are in place for continuity if there is an outbreak and several members of staff are required to self-isolate, can temporary or agency staff be brought in quickly?
The first few days of the great ‘re-opening’ have seen:
footfall to English high streets rise by 19.7% on the previous week; however, with reduced capacity and customers largely confined to tables in pubs, restaurants and cafes, takings have been much reduced in the subsequent period as the public remains cautious about going out
Queues have been seen at hairdressers as people showed up to get their first haircut since the lockdown in March
The government has introduced 50% discounts on meals to encourage dining out and to get people spending, as well as a £1000 bonus per employee to be paid to businesses that retain their furloughed staff to the end of January 2021
A temporary cut on VAT to 5% for restaurants, hotels and cinemas in a bid to protect 2.4 million jobs across the sector
Pret A Manger, Boots and John Lewis are the latest to announce store closures and redundancies amid the downturn in trading, rental costs, lower footfall and new safety measures, joining the more than 12,000 job losses that were announced at the start of July
Whether the government’s latest attempts to help the beleaguered hospitality and leisure sector are enough to mitigate against the devastating impact of the coronavirus on the UK economy remains to be seen, but undoubtedly there are huge challenges and difficult decisions ahead for any business in this sector.
At 3CS we are ready to advise you on the range of issues arising as you prepare for your staff to return to work and consider whether restructuring could offer a solution in tough times.
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