Updated June 24th, 2020
As of July 4th, London restaurants are allowed to reopen for dining. The government has published a 43-page document containing guidelines for restaurants, pubs, and more. You can read it here, but, in case hefty paragraphs and stock imagery aren’t your thing, we’ve unpacked most of the important information, to help you get a feel for what eating at a restaurant will look like.
Can I eat inside?
Yes. But it depends on the restaurant. Dining is allowed providing businesses carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment and keep to the social distancing guidelines set out by the government. So some places will be outdoor-only, and others won’t be.
What’s this risk assessment thing?
It’s something that makes sure employers assess and discuss the possible risks of opening for business with their staff, and carry out the appropriate health and safety measures.
So, what are the health and safety measures?
They can be split into two sections:
1) Social Distancing
- Maintaining 2m social distance, or 1m with ‘risk mitigation’ where 2m isn’t possible.
- Calculating the maximum number of customers able to follow social distancing guidelines.
- Reconfiguring seating areas accordingly.
- Adjusting staff and customer flow around the venue.
- Avoiding face-to-face seating in favour of side-to-side. Or, in Larry David’s words: a side-sit.
- Indoor table service.
- Increasing ventilation where possible.
2) Hygiene And Safety
- Encouraging customers to wash or sanitise hands after entering.
- Providing cutlery and condiments when food is served to reduce multiple contact.
- Contactless ordering online or through an app, particularly at pubs and bars.
- Contactless payment wherever possible.
- Cleaning surfaces more often.
How will I know what measures a restaurant has put in place?
On completion of the assessment, businesses are encouraged to display their Covid-secure safety notice. Kind of like those hygiene posters you see around. The government is also recommending restaurants publicise their new procedures on their website and in the confirmation email they send you when you make a reservation.
Will I be able to go to the toilet?
Yes. And there are new guidelines on cleanliness and queuing that restaurants are expected to implement.
Okay. Do I have to wear a mask or face covering?
Nope. And staff won’t be obliged to either.
And should I be making a reservation?
That’s up to you. There are going to be restrictions on queuing inside and we lean on the side of organisation, so we’re going to say yes.
What’s this I’ve heard about restaurants taking my contact details for NHS Track and Trace?
Businesses are being asked to keep details of customers and visitors for 21 days in case the data is needed to prevent clusters and outbreaks. Make of that what you will. Tinfoil optional.
How many people can I eat with?
Basically, for indoor dining you can have groups of up to two households (including support bubbles). Technically, you can have up to 30 people, but who has that many friends anyway?
What about outdoors?
Same applies outside, but here you can also meet with members of multiple households if your group size is limited to six people.
Right. So, what’s the situation with restaurants being able to expand their outdoor seating arrangements?
Some local councils - for example City of Westminster - are publishing plans to shut off roads to vehicles and introduce more table dining on the streets this summer. We understand the government is also rushing through legislation easing restrictions on all forms of street trading, so more to come on that front soon.
All of this makes me want to drink. Will pubs and bars be open?
Us too. Yes they will be, and the same rules apply. Just live performances of any kind are off the table for now.
I don’t think I’m ready to eat out yet, but I still want to support restaurants. How can I do that?
We totally get that. A lot of restaurants will continue to do takeaway and delivery as well. We’ve already published a bunch of takeaway-specific guides, with everything from Where To Order For Your Big Deal (Quarantine) Birthday to The London Pizza Delivery Guide and Where To Order In When You Want To Feel Like You’re Going Out. We’ll keep them updated so you can still support the restaurants you love through delivery and takeaway.
You didn’t answer my question.
Sorry about that. If you have a question for us, you can always reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. But the best and easiest way to get clear, fast answers about a restaurant is to just call that restaurant directly. They’ll be happy to chat. Just be patient, understanding, and kind. These are weird times, and we’re all trying to adjust safely.