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Coronavirus Safety Guidance for Restaurants, Explained

Restaurants can reopen for dine-in service in England from 4 July. Ahead of that, the government has published a raft of recommendations, none of which are legally obligatory

Obica Restaurant, London, United Kingdom. Architect: Labics, 2016. Ed Reeve/View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The government has published its long-awaited guidance on how restaurants, pubs, bars, and can open safely when they are permitted to do so in England, from Saturday 4 July. The 43-page document outlines a series of steps and recommendations which are designed to protect staff and customers from COVID-19.

The document spells out guidance and recommendations, on top of instructing businesses to carry out a risk assessment — whose findings should be made public — in advance of reopening. This guidance is not legally obligatory and none of the measures set out in the guidance will be legislated by national government, but their enforcement could be overseen by local authorities, which have their own autonomy and legislative powers. Restaurants are being encouraged to consider the Covid-secure guidance in the same way as they do regular food safety requirements, which are administrated through local authorities.

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the provision of flexibility and versatility in the guidance was good for businesses adapting to their own specific circumstances: “It is reassuring that the Government has understood the need for flexibility, demonstrating that they have listened to businesses,” she said. “The guidance is pragmatic and should a provide venues with enough versatility to suit their own unique circumstances. This is exactly what was needed to avoid restricting venues and making the job of reopening even harder.”

Below is a summary of the key recommendations in the guidance. The document can be found in full here.

Risk assessment

  • Before any restaurant implements its own set of safety measures, it “must carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment.” This must be done in consultation with unions or workers. (Employers have existing legal obligations under health and safety legislation that involves carrying out health and safety risk assessments and consulting with workers and/or unions.)
  • Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of health and safety law.
Restaurants will be encouraged to display a Covid-secure safety notice on completion of a risk assessment as they reopen after lockdown from 4 July
Restaurants will be encouraged to display a Covid-secure safety notice on completion of a risk assessment

Track and trace

  • The government is requesting that all businesses reopening from 4 July, record and keep contact details of all guests for 21 days, so that those individuals can be traced in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19.

Social distancing

  • Workplaces should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (two metres, or one metre with “risk mitigation where two metres is not viable, is acceptable.”)
  • Maintaining social distancing from customers when taking orders.
  • Using social distance markings to remind customers to maintain social distancing (two or one metre, with the mitigations as above.)
  • Calculating the maximum number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Reconfiguring indoor and outdoor seating and tables to maintain social distancing guidelines between customers. For example, increasing the distance between tables.
  • Adjusting service approaches to minimise staff contact with customers: Indoor table service must be used where possible, alongside further measures such as assigning a single staff member per table.
  • Using screens or barriers to separate workers from each other and workers from customers at points of service.
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
  • Access to walk-in facilities in kitchens, such as cold stores, should be restricted to one member of staff at a time.
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).

Health and hygiene recommendations

  • Ensuring both workers and clients who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the venue: No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.
  • Increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.
  • Increasing or improving ventilation inside restaurant spaces.
  • Minimising customer self service of food, cutlery and condiments to reduce risk of transmission. For example, providing cutlery and condiments only when food is served.
  • Encouraging contactless payments where possible and adjusting location of card readers to social distancing guidelines.
  • Providing only disposable condiments or cleaning non-disposable condiment containers after each use.
  • Reducing the number of surfaces touched by both staff and customers. For example, asking customers to remain at a table where possible, or to not lean on counters when collecting takeaway.
  • Ordering online, through an app, or in advance of attending a hospitality venue.

More soon on the reaction from restaurant owners to this guidance and their plans for reopening.