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Hurrah! Reflections on reopening of pubs and restaurants

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Hurrah! Reflections on reopening of pubs and restaurants

Locksbrook Inn in Bath

It's been a long three and a half months, but pubs and restaurants in England finally started re-opening their doors on 4th July. Here are a few quick reflections on best practice following our first visit. Thanks to the team at Locksbrook Inn in Bath, which felt like an appropriate place for breaking out of lockdown.

IT'S OK TO GO OUT. This is what we need the public to feel - that while things may be quite different, it's ok. So the more venues can do to put guests at ease, the better. If at some point during the visit they can forget about all the rules (without actually breaking them) the more relaxed they'll feel and the more they'll trust the venue to return. This requires walking through the experience as a guest, anticipating what it feels like, and adapting as required.

BE IN CONTROL WITHOUT BEING OFFICIOUS. Guests are happy to follow rules and instructions if they feel sensible and proportionate - it gives them a sense of reassurance that the venue cares about their safety. But there's a fine line between this and being overly officious, with rules that are difficult or annoying to follow. This will lead to friction and breaking of the rules.

MISTAKES WILL HAPPEN. This is new for everyone. If someone makes a mistake (guest or staff), it's probably not intentional. Best to try and rectify it with good grace and humour, rather than making the person feel silly.

SANITISER DISGUISED AS TABLE CONDIMENTS. Choose small round clear dispensers rather than rectangular/coloured/large ones. These blend in surprisingly well on a table in a similar way to a salt or pepper pot.

KEEP ON TOP OF THE CLEANING. It's everyone's responsibility, but it may work well to have one person continually circulating, visibly dealing with any weaknesses. Try to spot and deal with any spillages before other guests notice them.

FACE COVERINGS. Most guests won't be wearing them, so face masks are a good way of identifying a member of staff and conveying a sense of control. But they can make communication harder, so guests may feel more at ease if you briefly drop them when you have something to communicate (from a safe distance).

KEEP THE NOISE DOWN. Noise is known to be a risk factor (as people breathe out more heavily when talking). So be conscious of groups with loud voices - they may not be aware of the increasing volume - and keep the music down.

DRUNK PEOPLE DON'T SOCIALLY DISTANCE. But they will make others feel even more uncomfortable than would have been the case in the past. The only ways to control this are to limit numbers, limit drink or increase patrols.

KEEP IT UP. Staff at Locksbrook Inn seemed well trained and well prepared. They may have had their best team on duty for the re-opening. The challenge will be to keep up the standards, adapt as new realities become clear, and make sure the standards and processes are followed by all team members.

Best of luck to all pubs and restaurants pioneering the new normal - let's get those sales rebuilt as quickly and safely as possible. HGEM can help you to audit new standards and listen to guests' perception.

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