When will pubs reopen? Projecting the reopening of the hospitality sector
A big question during the easing of lockdown restriction is, ‘when will pubs reopen?’. As shops prepare to open up later this month, we still have no dates. Nor is there a lead from Government about when pubs and the independent hospitality sector can open their doors. Rumours continue to circulate about a potential July 4 lifting of some restrictions, but there is nothing definitive yet.
Certain commentators including me are still struggling to see how this can be done if there is a continued insistence on a 2 metre social distancing requirement. As one proprietor of a small establishment commented to me, “it’s two metres from the door to my bar and the same from my bar to the toilets”. It’s hard to see how this place could currently ever open.
Distancing rules peculiarities, which allow you to shop in a store full of strangers but not sit two metres away from your parents in a house, don’t as yet bode well for opening up of drinking and eating spaces.
Pub reopening – can social distancing practically continue?
Can social distancing continue if pubs/restaurants are ever to meaningfully re-open or is it a fantasy?
Do we need to build a new model which accepts that there may be transmission? In this model everyone will take their own responsibility in keeping infections to a minimum.
Take a visit to a supermarket where you queue outside at a 2-metre distance. Then as soon as you are through the doors, the aisles become scrums as people go both ways up aisles and lean across each other into cabinets.
Some significant site operators in the sector were working on plans to re-open pubs almost as soon as they received instructions to close their doors.
However, many in the hospitality industry are small-scale single site entrepreneurs. These are without the resource of a head office team to plan layouts and number crunch on models of profitability. I feel that together we are a huge resource of ideas. If we can find a way to share those with each other, there will be enough solutions generated to suit almost any establishment.
Opening your pub doors
Opening your doors could firstly include a back to work meeting with staff on the new regime you will implement. This will focus on the disinfection regime for all touched areas, hand washing policies, taking of payment and enforcement of distancing requirements.
Establishment layout needs to be given considerable thought. As an exercise take a tape measure open it to two metres and lay it at various points in your customer-accessed area. It’s mind-blowing how little space you may have to work with and how many pinch points you have. With that now in mind is it even possible to operate directional flow?
Have you got your product ordering app sourced? There are a number now on the market. For establishments that are doing take-out and delivery services, Matthew Clark have an app that helps you control that process for a modest fee and no set up charge.
I can see table service as the new norm for some time. So, anyone serious about opening sooner, will need a method of remote ordering and payment straight from the off.
On the food side of pub reopening, pared down menus and wrapped and sealed cutlery and condiments will almost certainly be in place initially. You may need to budget for floor staff to keep on top of cleaning and clearing away. It will be an incessant task.
When will pubs reopen – the importance of cash flow forecasting
Assuming that you can implement these measures, have you done your cash flow forecasting? Any establishment will need to be extremely clear on the true cost of opening. If you get these costs wrong at the start, you will very quickly find yourself in trouble. It will be even harder to gauge expected turnover. I would suggest running a number or scenarios, and scope your running costs along side your projections. Do not pop on your ‘rose tinted specs’. Be ruthless and objective, if you cannot show a profit, wishing the figures were better, will not make them so.
Revisit your plans time and time again. Scour all available resource for the latest thoughts and ideas and share yours. Take professional advice if you can afford it. It will work out costlier in the long run if you don’t get your opening offering right.
Be positive about pub reopening!
Most of all don’t lose heart. You do what you do because you love it, because you are good at it. If you have the energy to try to succeed, the British public will go with you. Let’s face it they all want an end to this as much as you do. Find a way to safely give them a place to celebrate the end of lock down and they will surely come.
Please also make sure you have read my other article, ‘Adapting to life beyond Covid-19 in the hospitality sector starts now’.
This article written by Steve Thatcher, has recently been published in Caterer Licencee and Hotelier digital news edition 10.
Steve Thatcher is a non-practising solicitor of 25 years’ experience He is an ex-publican and personal licence holder. He currently practices as a business rescue and insolvency professional with F A Simms & Partners.
Steve works directly with numerous businesses in the hospitality sector and has first-hand experience of how COVID19 is affecting them.