Social distancing and hygiene protocols reassure diners

Social distancing protocols are most likely to reassure consumers that it is safe to eat out, according to the latest covid-19 tracker published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In the June and July surveys, people were asked about what would reassure them that it is safe to return to eat in restaurants. They said:

  • Appropriate social distancing measures (32% in July; 36% in June);
  • Good hygiene and safety measures (28% in July; 35% in June).
  • Good handwashing facilities, including provision of hand sanitiser (26% in 
July; 30% in June);
  • Visible and regular cleaning (22% in July; 24% in June);
  • Local Covid-19 infection rate is low (20% in July; 26% in June);

However, one in four (25%) respondents reported that they would not eat out for the foreseeable future, rising to 31% in July. 
This increased to 41% for those over 55. Just 15% of those aged 16 to 24 said they wouldn’t eat out yet.

Last month’s Responsible Business Recovery Forum, organised by Footprint, tackled the issue of social distancing. Businesses were showing incredible flexibility and innovation the forum heard, with reviews of the procedures that have been in place largely positive.

“The feedback and feeling customers get when they are in your premises […] they are very, very comfortable with what’s happening and they feel very safe once they are at work,” noted a contract caterer speaking at the event. However, the challenge is getting to work, he added.

Lack of footfall remained a major concern, with some suggesting they could “scrape through” this year if sites were full to the new lower capacity limits. The chances of making a profit however were “zero” said a restaurant owner who has had to reduce covers from 110 to 76 at one site.

The forum heard how businesses were balancing heightened safety measures with a great experience. As one health and safety expert from a restaurant chain explained: “We have managed guest expectations before they even step foot in our restaurants – there is lot of information on our website about covid-19 controls and staff will talk through the [new] spacing [arrangements]. We have plastic screens in strategic places so we can get more tables in – and they are working quite well and are quite well received. Front of house staff have face covers or visors [and there] doesn’t seem to be any concern about that; I think they are quite reassured by that.”

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