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Preparing for the ultimate cheers: What do pubs need to do to reopen in the coming months?

11 June 2020 Company News

The government’s Recovery Plan, released on the 11th May 2020 outlined the necessary steps and criteria that the UK would need to make, in order to see the reopening of hospitality businesses. 

The proposal states that the benchmarks set for Stage 3, which look specifically at pubs, leisure centres and hairdressers, are likely to be met ‘no earlier than the 4th July’. 

Yet, with social distancing measures still legally in place, pubs and restaurants will need to adapt significantly, to protect their staff and customers from the risk of Coronavirus. The government will be monitoring public safety by ‘carefully phasing and piloting re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines’. 

There have been no official guidelines released yet by Boris Johnson. However, the UK’s 47,000 pubs have been shuttered since March 20, so if they are to survive, they will be eager to make all necessary preparations, in order to reopen as early as possible.

What will pubs look like on reopening?

As it stands, the two-metre social distancing rules are still in place. But as of today, the BBC reports that social distancing is under ‘constant review’. This comes after increasing pressure from the hospitality industry and MPs, who argue that pubs and restaurants will only survive if this distance is halved. 

Regardless of distancing measures, the ability for a venue to manage the flow of customers, preferably using one-way systems, will be crucial for the risk assessment.

How can pubs manage their space on reopening?

Venues which have outdoor spaces such as beer gardens or roof terraces are at an advantage, as they can utilise these facilities to stop too many visitors from entering inside at once.

For pubs and restaurants without outdoor seating, it is essential to manage the intake of customers. This can be achieved by:

  • Only having two entrances open at once; these should be manned by a member of staff who can count people in and out
  • Operating on a booking only service; visitors must book a slot/table prior to arriving. Booking platforms such as OpenTable allow you to manage these in advance
  • Allowing customers time-slots in order to help with capacity flow
  • Piloting new opening hours, to manage the demand and help prevent overcrowding/queues


It is likely that there will be a maximum capacity indoors, and seating will need to reflect this.  In order to create more space for customers and staff to keep a safe distance, restaurants and pubs should only provide enough seating for the maximum capacity. All other furniture should be removed to increase the distance between tables and walkways. 

As you would expect, there will be extra importance stressed on the cleanliness of seating areas. These should be monitored closely, and cleaned thoroughly between groups of people.


The infamous ‘four row deep’ bar queue could well be a thing of the past. To manage the risk of infection, pubs should offer mandatory table service for both drinks and food. There should only be one member of staff allocated to each group to minimise cross-contamination.

On the app

The pandemic has no doubt forced new demographics to engage with technology, in order to keep contact with the people and things they love. The hospitality sector, which has already seen pubs and restaurants utilise apps, is an industry that would benefit from adopting technology for seamless contact free transactions.

App services mean customers can place and pay for their food and drink orders without interacting with staff. 

However, for a lot of pubs it will not be feasible to launch an app during this time. In which case, there is the option to create an online ordering process from their website. See our Paymentsense BiteBack solution here

Other online ecommerce solutions include:

Go cashless

If it is not possible for customers to pay online, it is highly recommended that all retail businesses adopt a cashless operation, to avoid the extra spread of germs from physical money. This means that pubs and restaurants will need reliable contactless card machines.

Personal Protection

Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be a mandatory requirement for all staff, and it will be the duty of employers to provide staff with the essentials needed to work safely. This may also extend to customers, who will need to wear a face covering before entering the premises. 

The government will likely announce very specific guidelines around this, which they will monitor closely.

PPE may include:

  • Face masks or coverings
  • Hand sanitisers 
  • Disposable gloves 
  • Appropriate shielding between staff


Of course, the priority for the hospitality sector will be to prove to the government that they can operate a clean and safe environment that will not risk the health of the nation. As well as overall stringent cleanliness, pubs should look at their supply chain ahead of time, to make any necessary alterations. For example, using recyclable pint cups or cutlery and containers to limit the risk of infection.

Setting the bar high

The hospitality sector has been dealt the biggest blow during COVID-19, and it goes without saying that pubs and bars have been missed sorely by the British public. In order to start pouring the perfect pint again, there will be high standards to meet.

Taking the right actions now to prepare, could mean that come July, your business will be on track to welcome thirsty revellers once more.

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