Covid-19: When restaurants reopen, table spacing, face mask rules and the 'toilet situation'

A restaurant that prides itself on limited interaction between waiting staff and customers and has hardly any tables and chairs – with vast spaces between them – would normally sound like the kind of pretentious, overpriced establishment that is best avoided. Of all the possible scenarios he imagined might befall him when he opened his Leeds bar and restaurant, Mad Frans, last November, a global pandemic that would force him to furlough his staff within a matter of months was not one. “It’s a massive blow.” Fraser witnessed a “massive slump” in takings in the two weeks before lockdown was enforced, but introduced some distancing measures, such as seating people far away from each other, in an effort to put the customers who did turn up at ease. Natasha Cooke, whose small restaurant in London’s Borough Market, Lupins, can accommodate a maximum of 40 diners, is concerned that for a business like hers – where the friendly, approachable staff are part of the draw – ordering her employees to stop interacting with customers will tarnish its reputation. Over the next month Phillips will be closely following developments in Italy, where restaurants and bars will reopen for takeaway service from today, so he can replicate here what seems to work well over there. Observing this new code of conduct is significantly harder when a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese and a glass of wine are placed in front of you. Read more Toby Quine, who runs a chain of three cafes, Bumble and Bee, with his wife Debs in Exmouth, Devon, suspects a rise in business rates could be on the cards once the country is on the road to recovery. “People might think: ‘Sod it, I’ll just stop now.’ It will be a long term issue.” Fraser hopes Government and industry err on the side of caution instead of rushing to “get Britain moving again”, to borrow the mantra of some commentators. Failure to do so would put restaurants, cafes and pubs on a collision course in the months to come, with many businesses unable to cope with any future crises triggered.