Christmas will look very different this year for the hospitality industry. They will be contending with keeping their doors open, managing social distancing, keeping staff and customers safe, and trying to create a cheerful seasonal atmosphere and spirit.
Uncertainty is maybe the biggest challenge for hospitality venues, and the government can offer very few assurances. When questioned if big parties could be held over the Christmas period, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it is “too early to tell.”
Health Security Matt Hancock was asked if families could celebrate together over the winter holiday, and he said: “not necessarily.” The introduction of the rule of six will make life very difficult for everyone, and there will be an uphill battle for establishments to survive Christmas and the winter period.
The new guidelines affect the country on a local level due to the government’s three tiers of COVID-19 restrictions. These tiers can effectively put every district, city, and town on different rules.
For venues with an alcohol license, they are restricted to table service only. The rule of six means that table bookings are limited to six people, and these groups cannot socialise with another.
The rules for each tier are as follows:
- Tier 1 – Restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, and other hospitality venues are permitted to operate but must close at 22:00 BST.
- Tier 2 – Pub and restaurant patrons are banned from mixing with people from outside their household. Tier 2 areas currently include districts such as London, Durham, Essex, and Newcastle.
- Tier 3 – Pubs may not open unless they operate as if they were a restaurant and serve substantial meals. The serving of alcohol is only permitted as part of those meals. Tier 3 areas currently include Lancashire, Liverpool, South Yorkshire, and Great Manchester.
Hospitality staff must also take customer contact details from one person in the party for tracing them if an outbreak occurs. The contact details must be kept for 21 days, including a name and phone number and arrival time and length of stay.
There is a hefty up to £10,000 fine if bookings greater than six are taken, if contact details are not taken, and if social distancing is not enforced. This will make Christmas work more challenging than usual, and seasonal workers will have a lot to grapple with.
Safety measures are becoming a way of life, so it will be little surprise to anyone that hospitality PPE must be worn. Primarily, this means staff must wear a face mask. Customers must also wear a mask when seated at their table to drink or eat. A £200 fine can be issued for not wearing a mask for the individual’s first offence.
Hospitality staff should wash their hands before touching plates, glasses, and cutlery. The establishment must control access to toilets, have live gigs outside where possible, and keep music on a low volume to avoid the need for guests to shout.
At the same time, customers are being encouraged to order food via apps and book tables in advance. If an outbreak occurs, the venue may or may not be closed, based on individual circumstances.
Christmas workers may be asked to:
- Take a COVID-19 test
- Be extra vigilant in their social distancing
These rules may make it harder for hospitality venues to find seasonal workers, who may feel they would be risking their family Christmas by working in a pub or restaurant.