The reopening of hospitality: key learnings as trading is back with a bang


The reopening of outdoor dining and drinking saw hundreds of thousands of eager Brits flock to bars, restaurants, and pubs across the country to enjoy their first outing of 2021. 

After an average loss of £200million every day in 2020 across the hospitality industry, it’s no secret that businesses were in need of this financial boost, but just how prepared were they to deal with the madness that freedom week brought? 

Midnight queues and chilly weather were just some of the things business owners encountered, but morale has nonetheless been at an all-time high over the last couple of weeks.

Nick Lofts, Director at The Brunswick, Leeds, comments: “Due to being such a small pub, we have definitely had to deal with no shows over the years, but to make this stage of opening easier for us we aren’t doing bookings at all, just walk ups. So far, most people have been super excited and our outside space is very open and well socially distanced, so everyone has seemed to be as calm and happy as possible.”

Nick adds: “Before the last reopening, we used our takeout licence which meant we got to ease into welcoming customers back gradually. However, since we were unable to do that this time round it was slightly different, luckily we had already made all the relevant changes for health and safety, so everything was in place.

“I’ve really missed just being behind the bar, pouring pints and chatting to people, it has a community around it and I don’t think you realise how big a part of your social life it is until it’s taken away.”

From ensuring schedules are manageable, keeping staff happy and ensuring health and safety measures are met, industry experts provide some top tips to ensure a successful, safe and efficient reopening this summer in the hospitality industry: 

1. Balance the books

Kevin Ryan, at the workforce management platform, Planday comments: “There’s no doubt that the pandemic has been an extremely tough time for the hospitality industry. For those businesses that did manage to survive, money will continue to be tight, so prioritising cash flow is necessary to ensure a strong comeback.

“In particular,  while there is an influx of customers now that restrictions have lifted, the number of staff required for the next few months will also need to be accounted for – you may need all hands on deck but you must also be able to assess what is financially viable and what is not.

“You may also need to make other changes as you go, such as reducing the menu to cut down on waste and introducing a ‘pay before you eat policy’ if customers have been failing to show up.”


2. Ensure you’ve considered all the health and safety risks

Tash Blythe, expert in health and safety at the online training provider, High Speed Training comments: “It’s so important to ensure your health and safety checklist is up to date, and that staff are properly trained to cover new risks – and know how to follow control measures. 

“Staff may require both internal and external training, with internal training being especially important if there have been a number of changes to the premises and work processes due to COVID-19. 

“It’s also extremely important to ensure the premises is compliant with the latest guidance around everything from fire to electrical safety – as well as ensuring the correct inspections and maintenance checks are carried out on machinery.” 


3. Keep on top of social distancing and use ample signage

Luke Hodson, founder of the leading printing company, Awesome Merchandise comments: “Social distancing should still be at the forefront of your staff and customer’s minds, so it’s really important to keep reminding them as often as possible of this safety precaution. 

“Displaying wall stickers and posters around your venue as explicitly possible will provide the best opportunity for social distancing to be carried out effectively.

“At Awesome Merchandise, we’ve been working with bars, restaurants and cafés to ensure that their signage isn’t just clear, but is also on-brand, by personalising all stickers and posters with their logo.

4. Utilise technology to make better decisions for your business

Kevin at Planday continues: “Utilising the range of data systems you have and bringing them together to assess where your business stands will ensure that you make better informed decisions, faster and ultimately you’ll come out of the pandemic stronger.

“You should be able to account for sales, labour costs, daily KPIs and any consumer patterns that emerge over the next few months. This way you are able to react accordingly to any changes, as well as forecast future changes for your business.”

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