The Handbook
The Handbook

The Prime Minister will issue a final verdict tomorrow on when the hospitality industry will be allowed to reopen. It’s likely that he’ll stick with the government’s previous projection of Saturday 4th July, given the indicators all appear to be heading in the right direction, but whatever date government, in concert with the shadowy science nerds at Sage, decide it will fire a starting pistol on reopening. And it’s likely the pubs and restaurants we’ll be returning to will look and feel a bit different.

Other countries are ahead of us on this curve, so we don’t necessarily need a crystal ball to predict some factors, plus there is copious amounts of guidance from trade body UKHospitality.

Keep your distance

This is the summer of social distancing. Khia’s ‘My Neck, My Back’ song could not be further from the zeitgeist and this will feed through into how hospitality will operate. The big question, though, is what distance will government mandate?

Restaurants, pubs and bars will look very different with 2 metre distancing in place to 1 metre. In effect, most businesses say that 2 metres simply isn’t practical and will lead to an untenable 30% occupancy. Which will deter the majority from reopening.

We await news from Boris, which is promised this week…

We’re Going Al Fresco!

Venues with outdoor space will see a bonanza this summer. Partly because, well, it’s summer, but also because the science seems to suggest that being outside is far safer from transmission of coronavirus than being inside.

Beer Gardens will be rammed to whatever responsible capacity they are allowed to ram to. Meanwhile local councils have given go-aheads to restaurants to pour out onto the pavements a-la-continental without having to go through the usual planning process.

Which means we’re going al fresco…

Designer Christophe Gernigon's innovative solution to social distancing...

Innovation

Expect to see plenty of innovation this summer. From suggestions like Christophe Gernigon’s shields (pic left) to new ways to dine altogether.

Lockdown saw some restaurants turn to new business models altogether, with some setting up shops while others started delivering. Indeed, this delivery model for some took their reach and scale to new heights.

Mac & Wild, for example, have started creating kits on an industrial scale, allowing them to ‘bring’ people their restaurant who may never have set foot in their London restaurants. Innovations in restaurants, and in the way restaurants interact with those beyond the physical buildings will continue.

Shaking It Up

Farewell salt’n’pepper. Not the 80s girl band. According to guidance created by UKHospitality salt and pepper shakers should no longer be on the tables, and all condiments need to be brought to the tables.

Which is actually pretty fair, I’ve always been a bit grossed out by communal condiments anyway.

Masks!

Expect to say ‘what?’ a LOT. Diners won’t be expected to wear masks, but it’s likely that waiting and kitchen staff will. This is the case in Europe where restaurants are back on already.

Before the pandemic it would have been positively off-putting to see waiters wondering about in masks, you’d’ve avoided that establishment like the plague they obviously had. Now it’s strangely reassuring.

But it’s going to be a nightmare communicating…

Hand Washing

It’s a given that you should wash your hands before eating, but in a COVID world washing your hands and singing Happy Birthday (twice) is ubiquitous.

French restaurants are apparently putting out hand sanitiser on tables, and diners are instructed to use the stuff before and after handling the menu.

Expect to be not quite sure if the bouquet from your pinot noir is a little too much alcohol content, or the gel wafting up from your hand…

Eating In Your Car

Normally reserved for late night Maccy-D’s that you will (definitely) regret, eating in your car just got a makeover thanks to none other than Tom Kerridge!

The brilliant chef has been using his lockdown productively, planning his new drive-thru/in concept. He’s teamed up with the folks from Pub In The Park to come up with the┬áDrive & Dine Theatre.

Basically a night at the pictures in classic Americana style, drive-in, enjoy the film and eat some of Kerridge’s fabulous creations!

Tipping Point

Cash is no longer king! If you’re used to carefully totting up notes and coins between ten and twenty percent (depending on how mean or generous you are or you’re feeling) of your meal value, then tot again.

Recommendations from UKHospitality say that cash tips should be strongly discouraged due to potential infection control risks. Let’s hope the public are willing to dip into their credit cards, and that restaurants are willing to give waiting staff a fair deal.

And Cheaper?

There are rumours that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering lowering VAT, either across the board or just for the hospitality industry.

This wouldn’t be unprecedented, Alistair Darling did the same thing in response to the 2008 crisis and the result could be a rise in takings for restaurants or (dare we hope?) cheaper prices for customers.

Kerching?

The Handbook has teamed up with The Grill at The Dorchester for an exclusive competition. Entrants will have the chance to win a dinner for two at The Grill at The Dorchester when it re-opens! www.dorchestercollection.com