It is no secret that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on restaurants in London. In addition to shutting for a few months, London restaurants are now slowly reopening over the coming weeks. With complicated government guidelines and still many customers fearing the new world of going out again, it is an extremely tough environment to reopen in. Furthermore, there is a scary number of businesses closing for good.
The key priority now is to provide a safe environment for both customers and staff, in addition to maintaining brand experience and a high level of food, drink and service quality as per before COVID-19. This blog will look at the key ways London restaurants are socially distancing well.
Decorations to Socially Distance Seating
A great way to enforce the 1 metre social distance rule between tables is by using decoration that are on-brand to fill the space. One brand that has done this well is Drake & Morgan bars. Drake & Morgan have many fantastic bars around London including The Folly (Monument), The Parlour (Canary Wharf), The Refinery (Bankside) & Drake & Morgan (Kings Cross). Lots of beautiful plants and flowers separate the tables, so the spaces look stunning and feel relaxed while being safely socially distanced. Also very Instagramable! They additionally have trolleys dotted around the bar with more plants but also hand sanitiser, so you are never far from sanitising.
Wearing Face Masks
Another key way London restaurants are preventing the spread of the virus is through use of face masks. The rules around wearing face masks have quickly escalated and have mainly been confusing for most people. Recommendations went from, them not being that effective, to wear only on public transport to now wear them in all indoor public spaces. In the US, some restaurants are even expected to wear them while eating. Fortunately in the UK, currently customers don’t need to wear them in restaurants. However, the staff do.
The transparent face shields are especially good. They offer the required protection but look smart and less dramatic than the fabric nose and mouth covering masks. The transparent ones also look more breathable to wear and less uncomfortable for long shifts. Various restaurants have adopted transparent masks, usually the more higher-end ones. Some restaurants have adopted branded masks. Some are only wearing masks when carrying food, as opposed to at all times.
Alfresco Dining & Table Service
Fortunately, lockdown easing has happened in the summertime. One way a lot of bars and restaurants can further socially distance is through using outdoor space. Outdoor space both increases covers whilst maintaining social distancing. It appears rules around taking space in front of neighbouring businesses and extending into alleyways or roads have been lenient and further helping bars and restaurants maximise outside space. Bermondsey Street has new barriers which have allowed B Street Deli to extend into the roads adding three extra tables. Cafe Murano further down Bermondsey Street, has introduced outdoor tables down the side alley next door to the restaurant as well as seating on the pavement in front of their St James branch. Nine Lives, a cocktail bar close to London Bridge Station, has introduced alfresco dining to its concept, utilising the unused road space in front.
The alfresco dining is working well as in summertime people want to be outside anyway. Given so many people aren’t able to vacation this summer, this way of dining in London brings a vibrant European style vacation at home style vibe to London’s restaurant scene.
Many bars and pubs which would usually have an “order at the bar” way of doing service have now all adopted table service only. My local pub, The Kings Arms, have a clear system. One door is the entrance where you’re greeted and seated. The pub is small so staff are quick to notice you and come take your order. They have a pay as you go along and contactless only payments. All the food and drink is brought to the table. There is then a separate door for exit.
Ways London Restaurants are Socially Distancing: QR Codes
QR codes have come into their own for restaurants reopening. QR codes have been very useful for track and trace. Upon entry, users can check-in by scanning the QR code on their phones and fill in their information to be added to the NHS track and trace scheme. This system removes so much hassle for venues, makes it so easy for customers and ensures everyone is keeping as safe as possible.
I’ve also seen a lot of restaurants use QR codes for menus. You scan the QR code with your phone which takes you to a webpage with the menu online. Both Homeslice and the Daisy Green Collection have this implemented. This system prevents the risk of contamination through menus. The government guidelines suggest either having disposable paper menus or plastic ones that can be disinfected between users. The QR code ones reduced the waste of disposable ones and the time of cleaning to disinfect plastic ones. Plus some even allow you to order through the online menu so further pushing social distancing between customers and staff.
Ways London Restaurants are Socially Distancing: Continued Takeaway, Delivery & Home Kits
A lot of London restaurant brands used lockdown and the restaurant closure as an opportunity to develop out a delivery or takeaway service or a home DIY kit. Given the uncertainty of when life will be back to the way it was before COVID-19, having another source of revenue is going to be pivotal for the longer-term survival for a lot of businesses.
Consumer habits are still very much towards staying at home, reducing travel and saving money. In London, there still appears to be a significant decrease in the number of people coming in from out of town. In particular mid-week where workers are still working from home as opposed to coming into the city.
There are also some really excellent DIY kits from some exciting brands which are well worth a try. I tried Truffle Burger at home, which was amazing and a well put together kit. However, there is also the Pizza Pilgrims frying pan pizza, shake shack have just launched a burger at-home kit, and even Berenjak has launched a BBQ at-home kit.
Overall, it is amazing to see so many restaurants in London quickly adapting to the new rules and providing safe environments for people to dine out. However, it is still really nice to see brands continuing to embrace their unique cultures and not compromising their experience quality. It’s going to be a long time before we ever get back to where we were before COVID-19, but the brands that have quickly adapted will likely continue to do well in the longer term having built the crucial trust back up with customers. Restaurant quality food and bar quality drinks were sorely missed during lockdown in a city that has such an incredible food and drink scene.
For restaurant and bar recommendations by the Very Hungry Charlotte, see here.