Five ways pubs and restaurants will be different when they reopen
Finally, London is buzzing with those precious three words: restaurants are reopening. While many of us may have become culinary masters during three months of lockdown, or cashed out on every single loyalty reward available on Deliveroo, nothing will replace the sweet satisfaction of eating a meal cooked by a professional. But there’s a catch. Though we don’t want to put a dampener on things, the new face of hospitality wears a mask, and it’s best to be prepared for a slightly less intimate experience. Here are a few changes to expect.
Sun lovers will be happy to hear that restaurants will be extending their service outdoors to lower the risk of spreading the virus. For some chefs with large premises, this isn’t much of a problem, but for smaller venues, it may require spreading out onto the pavement. The City of Westminister has even proposed potential road closures which could allow more space for street seating in central London, subject to licences. For now we are fortunate that this change comes about during the summer – things may get a little trickier when the rain sets in.
Perhaps for many, prime minister Boris Johnson’s condition of “table service only” is a welcome improvement, given that it requires less effort on the part of the customer. For pub regulars, it might come as more of a shock. For the time being, there will be no walking up to bars and ordering “the usual”: they will be waited on like anyone else. Just to clarify, this doesn’t mean you should expect silver service, but it does mean no queues and no confusion with table numbers.
Another reason for lack of queues will be lack of clients. Even with the 1m+ social distancing amendment coming into play, venues will have to limit the number of tables on the premises to prevent physical contact. Again, smaller businesses will take a larger hit: chef James Cochran has announced that Islington’s 12:51 will be reopened under recently established delivery brand Around the Cluck as his modest venue is simply not viable for fine dining under the new rules.
Customers who make it into the restaurant will still be required to be part of the same household or social bubble. Smaller venues have been advised to establish a one-way system to keep separate parties apart, and other initiatives such as disposable menus, hand sanitisation stations, back-to-back seating and perspex screens will also be implemented where necessary.
One of the biggest changes will actually occur before you even get to the restaurant when you will be asked to register your details. This isn’t intended as a means to sell off your information to a third party or send you spam e-mails. Your details are for the NHS Test and Trace programme and will only be kept on record for 21 days in order to follow up if anyone in your party, or the restaurant, contracts the virus. However, this has raised a few data protection concerns given that a lot of businesses are not used to handling personal data.
Photo: Filippo L’Astorina