Is it possible to reopen your restaurant with half the staff?

Is it possible to reopen your restaurant with half the staff?

At the end of February, positive news came for the hospitality industry as the UK Government announced the roadmap out of lockdown.

It has been a long and challenging year for the hospitality industry, but the end is now in sight, and restaurant managers can now start planning for their grand reopening.

The hospitality industry was hit hard by lockdown, with 650,000 redundancies across the sector in 2020. With job losses, employees on furlough and the need for social distancing, restaurant managers may be wondering if they can open with a full roster of staff in place.

Our answer is yes, it is possible; but you will need to plan ahead.

Join us as we take a look at the roadmap out of lockdown and provide some guidance on how you can reopen your restaurant with less staff.

The current state of play for restaurant restrictions in England

By Monday 12 April at the earliest, restaurants will be able to serve customers outdoors. Customers can eat in groups of up to six people from different households or groups of any size from two households.

In London, the Al Fresco scheme will be returning to Westminster, meaning that some roads will be closed and turned into outdoor dining spaces. The City of London Corporation will also be issuing free pavement licences for suitable establishments.

By Monday 17 May at the earliest, restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors. Similar to before, customers can eat in groups of up to six people from different households or groups of any size from two households.

By Monday 21 June at the earliest, the UK Government will lift all social distancing restrictions on restaurants and the hospitality industry.

These dates are subject to change, depending on the rollout of the vaccine and infection data.

When venues reopen, the 10 pm curfew will no longer be in play, and there will be no requirements for customers to order a ‘substantial meal’ if they are just drinking.

There has been no further advice on the use of face masks or restaurant bookings, but this will be supplied at a later date.

In the Budget at the start of March, the following changes were announced:

  • The furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September. In July, businesses will be asked for a 10% contribution to salaries, with this rising to 20% in August and September
  • The existing business rates relief will be extended until the end of June. After this, there will be a two-thirds discount in place until the end of April 2022
  • The 5% VAT reduction for hospitality has been extended to the end of September. The VAT rate will then be 12% until April 2022
  • Hospitality businesses are entitled to grants up to £18,000 to help them until lockdown restrictions are fully eased

The Budget did not announce whether ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ would come back for a second time. However, restaurant and delivery groups including Deliveroo, Pizza Hut and Itsu have asked the Government to consider its return later this year.

How to reopen your restaurant with reduced staff levels

If you have decided to reopen your restaurant with less staff (whether front of house, kitchen or office-based), there are a few decisions you will need to make.

Here are our tips for helping to implement a staggered return.

Reduce the size of your menu

Reducing the size of your menu will have a lot of benefits. Not only will it make life much easier for your kitchen staff, but it will also mean larger profit margins and less waste.

Take a look at your existing menu before you reopen and review what you offer. For example, people may not be as keen to order sharing platters as they were before the pandemic.

You may also want to review overly complicated dishes to see if you can simplify them.

Review your staff and when they will return

You will need to review your staff roster to see who you will be bringing back for reopening and who you will be keeping on furlough for the time being.

Flexible furlough is an option if you want to bring more staff back on reduced hours.

Bear in mind that the staff that come back may need to cover extra duties. Make sure that you are aware of what these duties will be and clearly communicate these to your team before they return to work.

Reduce the number of customers at any one time

Although it may be tempting to invite as many customers into your restaurant as possible when you reopen, this may cause problems if you have limited staff availability. Reduce the number of bookings you take each day to accommodate this.

It may feel frustrating after a year of lockdown, but your customers will be happy to wait to come back.

Have a contingency plan in place

Remember that even though we are on the way out of lockdown, COVID-19 has not gone away entirely.

Remind staff that if they or someone they live with have symptoms, they must stay at home.

If a member of staff has to self-isolate, you will want to have procedures in place. Will you bring staff on furlough back into the restaurant or use an agency for short-term hiring?

In conclusion

Given that restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes had been left in the dark for several months, it’s good to now have a definitive deadline to work towards.

Out top tip is to start planning ahead now.

12 April may feel like a long way away, but there is a lot of planning and preparation to be done, especially if you are reopening with less staff than before.

Whether you are opening in April or are waiting until May, we wish you the best of luck and hope that your grand reopening goes well.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.