Taking a risk-based approach to reopening

Taking a risk-based approach to reopening

After more than three months of lockdown, the UK’s leisure sector is reopening

Since the 4th July the UK’s leisure and hospitality industry has begun to reopen after the biggest shutdown the sector has experienced since the Second World War.

Many venues will not have survived this far in order to reopen, and many more may yet close if trade does not resume. Last week’s announcement of a ‘eat out to help out’ August 50% discount from the government may bring some relief, but it’s unclear yet how the recovery will proceed as we move through the summer season.

Some 18,000 pubs may not survive, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) [1].  For those still in business, getting the green light just in time for the height of summer hasn’t come soon enough for many revenue-starved pubs, restaurants and other venues.

But as businesses across the country contemplate reopening, effective risk management, to keep customers and staff safe by stopping the pandemic from re-emerging, must stay front of mind.

Restaurants, pubs and beer gardens have led the way, having reopened on 4 July. Consumer questions abound: is it safe to eat indoors in restaurants [2]; and will toilets be open to use as usual? [3]

Social distancing measures remain, although reduced to a minimum of one metre, and there will be table service only, with customers not allowed to crowd the bar as usual.

As the phased reopening continues, other hospitality businesses should consult expert advice and direction on how to maintain safety for staff and customers.

The UK government is providing “Covid-secure” safety guidance to help this process [4].  The government’s guidance has been praised as flexible, important when tailoring rules to individual venues and differing circumstances [5].

For pubs, guidelines include no bar service [6], with customers having to register ahead of time, making a traditional trip to the pub more like a restaurant reservation. The BBPA is among those industry bodies also providing guidance [7].

A localised lockdown is in place in Leicester, due to a recent resurgence of the virus. This has already resulted in pubs and restaurants in nearby areas having to impose added measures to ensure people are not circumventing the city’s local shutdown [8].  Some pubs in neighbouring areas have opted not to open, considering themselves unable to manage the risk [9].  As we will likely see local outbreaks through the summer, landlords and restaurant owners will need to keep up to date on where these local lockdowns are happening and adapt as needed, while maintaining compliance with the national requirements.

On a broader scale, regions attracting large numbers of tourists, such as Cornwall, will need to carefully manage the influx of visitors expected this summer. Cornwall Council has already warned that the county cannot welcome the usual number of visitors overnight [10].

Take accommodation, for example. While a self-contained self-catering cottage can be adapted relatively simply, with hand sanitiser and advisory signage, many of the smaller bed-and-breakfasts popular among tourists will need to adapt their layouts, and routines to effectively manage the risk.

Whatever the type of leisure and hospitality business, it is vital that a proper risk assessment has been undertaken and best practice advice from government and industry associations has been taken on board. However, each business will need to take an individual approach, tailoring aspects of the guidance where needed to fit its own business risk profile.











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