Most restaurants/caféss/hotel businesses were lucky to have a few weeks of trading last summer, which gave an insight into how it will all look on the next ‘normal’.

However, if your business did not open last year, there are certain things you should do to comply to current Covid 19 guidelines. The HSA website shows main regulatory requirements but here are a few that relate to your customers’ experience that you might want to consider before the all clear is given to reopen.

Capacity of premises

Let’s face it, physical distancing of some sort is here for the rest of 2021. If you have seating for guests in your premises you need to look at a viable layout of furniture. As a simple rule, a distance of 1 metre is sufficient once other steps have been taken to control the risk of transmission.

Physical distancing of 2 metres should be maintained between tables. However, if this is not possible, this can be reduced to 1 metre* in controlled environments if the other risk mitigation requirements outlined in Appendix 1 have been met.
Excerpt from Failte Ireland Guidelines for Reopening.

There is certainly pent-up demand to socialise again in cafés, bars and restaurants but that is coupled with a certain amount of customer apprehension. It will be at least 12-18 months before we are at ease sitting 2 inches from the next table of strangers. To keep costs down, consider screening or planters that could be reused when we re-emerge from this reality. If you are refurbishing, designing your floor finishes to intuitively guide your customers in a one-way flow is also another clever way to achieve space between people.

Use of Outdoor

Already a big hitter since the smoking ban a few years ago; if you haven’t looked into the outdoor opportunities available to your business, you should do it now. This is going to be big for the foreseeable future. Firstly, look into your lease or boundary plan to see if you already have permission to use the outdoor space. Now is the best time to take advantage of the current Outdoor Enhancement Scheme grant available through Failte Ireland.

There are great resources on this website, but get a professional involved if you need advice on what would work best for your unique situation. Heating and shelter are essential considerations for Irish weather. Also by creating your outdoor offering an extension of your indoor experience, your customers will keep coming back. Currently local authorities are considering omitting fees associated with outdoor street usage for the rest of the year to aid businesses trade. There are also positive urban incentives gaining momentum to utilise roads or street parking as fully pedestrianised zones allowing more outdoor seating.

Communication + New Tech

This is really important in our highly digital marketing world. Whether you have an interactive website or a steady social media presence, your customers need to know what to expect when you reopen. Even when guests do come back, for all hospitality sectors, it will be essential to put them at ease with clear instructions as to what the rules are and what to expect. This can be provided in the pre arrival communication as part of their confirmation booking email or text.

Booking apps are now increasingly extending their capabilities to pre ordering food and highlighting any food allergies prior to arrival etc. Some food businesses that have offered take away service throughout the pandemic will continue this to some extent alongside their indoor offering. The more choice you can offer to your customers will reflect in your sales.

It’s a given that we’ll be keeping our sanitiser and face masks close at hand for the next few months at least, but the good news is that people in general want to socialise again. Hospitality has taken such a huge hit over the last year, but it also has a great opportunity to progress with personalised technology and flexibility of offering once the business owners are open are ready for it. Remember it doesn’t matter what the ‘next normal’ is, it only matters that the guest experience is the best that you can offer.

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