24 June 2020, 10:39 AM
  • The Government relaxed its two-metre social distancing measures to facilitate the reopening of restaurants and pubs in July, but consumer confidence is still in doubt
Foodservice to reopen and distancing rules to relax: industry reacts

From 4th July, pubs and restaurants will be able to open their doors to customers after more than three long – and costly – months under lockdown, but questions remain around how to ensure consumer confidence amid the ongoing pandemic.

The reopening of many small businesses is being made possible largely by the relaxation of the two-metre social distancing rule. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the “one metre plus” rule, which encourages consumers to keep two metres apart where possible and take additional precautions such as wearing a mask, would also take effect from 4th July.

“The new ‘one metre plus’ approach should help many to get back to business in a way that means they can turn a profit, particularly across the leisure and hospitality industries. But it will mean new costs for small firms as they invest in screens, face coverings, hand sanitiser and other protective measures,” said Mike Cherry, national chairman of Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The FSB said one in five small firms that had to close due to lockdown restrictions could not reopen as long as rules such as the two-metre benchmark remained. According to UKHospitality, the two-metre rule would have capped capacity for most venues at around 30%, while reduction to one-metre will see most venues able to trade at around 70% of capacity.

While the announcement was welcomed by the hospitality and food industries, questions still remain over the details of how to protect and reassure customers and staff. A poll by YouGov published in June found that just 37% of Brits would feel comfortable returning to restaurants when they reopen. Meanwhile, 26% said they would be happy to visit a pub or bar, though almost twice as many (53%) said they would visit a pub garden.

The relaxation of the two-metre rule will help businesses increase capacity, but Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “We are still a long way from business as usual”.

“Broader efforts to boost business and consumer confidence will still be needed to help firms trade their way out of this crisis. A comprehensive test and trace system, including a mass testing regime, must be in place to realise the benefits that the easing of restrictions could bring to firms across the UK, many of whom are relying on the swift return of consumer confidence.”

AA Covid Confident scheme
In a bid to boost consumer confidence among restaurants and hotels, the AA has announced a scheme to give accreditation to establishments that pass its “stringent” assessment.

“The AA’s new COVID Confident assessment scheme supports the hospitality industry in re-establishing and rebuilding consumer confidence as parts of the UK come out of lockdown.”

Businesses that pass the assessment, which is free of charge, will receive accreditation to clearly indicate to customers that they have in place the necessary risk assessment, safety measures and staff training to reopen safely in line with the UK’s respective government guidelines, as well as published UKHospitality and trade association guidelines.

Successful applicants will also be listed on the AA’s RatedTrips.com and receive an AA Covid Confident logo to use online, a digital certificate to print and display in-store, and a social media toolkit to help inform customers.

Simon Numphud, Managing Director at AA Media, said: “Covid-19 has had a profound impact upon all those working in the hospitality sector, and we’re acutely aware that customers are deeply concerned about how and when they will be able to safely return to restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, pubs and beyond.”

It is hoped that as lockdown measures continue to ease, schemes like the AA Covid Confident accreditation will boost consumer confidence by helping them find pubs and restaurants that have gone to great measures to ensure their safety.

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