Social Distancing in Bars and Restaurants
Social distancing starting to becoming the new normal around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This measure aims to reduce the spread of the disease; however, it affects many businesses and the economy around the globe. Some of the most affected companies are those depending on people coming together like bars and restaurants. The administration and relevant bodies gave general guidelines to help bars and restaurants reopen and operate safely. Regardless, business owners operating bars and restaurants face difficulties adjusting to the instructions. Additionally, there are increasing claims that the social distancing guidelines don’t favor the industry, and could lead to further closure of bars and restaurants.
Restaurant operators claim that adopting social distancing in their businesses means fewer customers and, consequently, income. Nowak, a restaurant operator from Georgia, says that they will not record any profits while practicing social distancing. And there are a considerable number of operators who have opted not to open again with this directive.
Nowak explains that he now takes around 50 customers in his restaurant compared to a previous record of over 200 customers. He has also rearranged his tables at a 12-feet separation distance. His dining area now accommodates about 25 people from an earlier capacity of 60. He hopes that the employees will receive social distancing training to offer a safe operating environment for themselves and the customers. Another operator Michelin of Fine dining says that social distancing policies mean the industry will die out. For this industry expert, there is no profitable logic in opening bars and restaurants. He questions whether as responsible directors, they should open knowing these measures will lose them money.
Even with the proper operating procedures, many customers are avoiding bars and eateries due to the coronavirus. For this reason, most restaurants opt to remain closed for some time instead of opening with a reduced capacity. Reduced seating capacity increases the operating costs like employee salaries, permits, and routine health checks. The New York restaurant operator Union retrenched over 2000 employees due to a reduced number of customers. The union CEO Meyer says he doesn’t expect to receive customers unless scientists find a vaccine and that he doesn’t plan to operate on a loss basis. He explains the lack of joy in having a half-filled restaurant with everyone undergoing temperature checks and sanitization, only for a few coins.
This claim is a universal sentiment from bar and restaurant operators. For instance, bar and restaurant owners in Italy are protesting heavily against the government social distancing guidelines set to take effect on 1st June. Milano is an operator from Milan. He claims that although he is passionate about the business, Milano doesn’t prefer opening because there is a 70% estimate decrease in capacity if he implements those guidelines. A survey from 300 establishments in the UK shows that operators are not confident about surviving the social distancing claims, preferring to remain closed.
Social distancing can only help bar and restaurant owners if the government agrees to offer financial support. The sentiment is from bar owners, among them Ramsden, a London restaurant operator, who claim their businesses struggle to survive even with an 80% capacity. Most small businesses cannot raise enough profits to pay expenses such as wages, water, and electricity bills. Reducing their ability by social distancing makes the situation worse and could lead to more business closures and increases job loss. Kate Nicolls, CEO of UK hospitality, calls upon the government to help businesses by offloading debt and paying rents to offer workers compensation. She explains that social distancing is not an economically viable option for SMEs, and it could be the case that most outlets will remain closed.
Social distancing is not practical in bars and pubs. The behaviors portrayed in bars pose a massive risk to the operators and the health status of the nation. For instance, Hong Kong availed social distancing guidelines permitting bars and restaurants to operate at half capacity. Infections spiked towards the end of March with the health bureau concluding that 50% of the cases resulted from the bars. Consequently, bars closed down, leaving restaurants to operate. Gurung is an operator who is fortunate enough to run, but he wonders how they can survive, with only 15 customers separated at 1.5 meters. He concludes that the guideline is not healthy for their industry.
Customers will always possess a desire for convenience and excellent services such as delicious food. Thus, restaurant owners and operators should maintain constant contact with customers to capitalize on delivery services and pick-up orders. The social distancing measures like lockdown present business opportunities for some operators, even as most bars and restaurant businesses remain closed. For instance, Brian O’Malley operates a pub and has found a new way to do business by setting up a delivery service for his pubs. The venture looks promising, but he also has more concerns about the costs of taking protective measures.
Roslyn Stone gives her views on how restaurants can capitalize on the social distancing guidelines to remain afloat in business. She says that social distancing is practical, but the restaurant and bar management needs to reflect how it implements to the first house (customers) and back house (staff) guidelines. Businesses should not only space out their tables but also utilize outdoor space if available to them. She exclaims that business operators are lucky the pandemic is occurring at a time with mild weather, and people can enjoy an open-air surrounding. She also advises owners and operators not only to maintain restaurant hygiene but to up their standards to attract customer comfort and confidence.
The Covid-19 pandemic is continually affecting the global economy, with many SMEs struggling to survive. The government has provided guidelines like social distancing towards the safe reopening and operation of the hospitality industry. However, many bars ad restaurants prefer to remain closed because working at half capacity is not viable for survival. Operators depend on government support to help offset some operational costs. The guidelines laid concerning social distancing can help combat the spread of the disease while running the economy; however, bars and eateries would instead remain closed, then operate at half capacity and make losses.