Surviving the Latest Restrictions in the Hospitality Industry safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ guidance, remains unchanged. In readiness for re-opening after lockdown, a review and refresh of risk assessments would be advisable. For those businesses who have closed, there is an ideal opportunity to take the learnings from previously operating during the pandemic to identify whether any areas require addressing. Any changes to risk assessments should of course be shared with the team.
Hayden Hibbert, Director of Client Relations at allmanhall (www.allmanhall.co.uk), independently owned food procurement experts, outlines the new regulations facing the hospitality sector, and gives his advice on the operational changes businesses should be considering to help manage the challenges faced. Previously a chef and then Head of Catering himself, Hayden is well-placed to make practical recommendations. It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be immensely challenging for the hospitality industry, highlighted by the 48% drop in sales in the third quarter of 2020 (UKHospitality and CGA). The only certainty is uncertainty as we now look to move out of the 2nd lockdown and into the new tiered restrictions. Restrictions which are causing great concern across an already bruised and stressed industry. The revised measures stipulate that in tier 2 areas households cannot mix indoors and pubs and bars are to close unless operating as restaurants. Where hospitality businesses are selling food and drink, they must provide table service, alcohol can only be served with a ‘substantial meal’ and there is an 11pm curfew with last orders by 10pm. Those in tier 3 can only operate a takeaway, delivery or drive through service. UKHospitality have described the new restrictions as a ‘restrictive straitjacket’ at best and at worst, ‘a lockdown in all but name’ with the tighter restrictions likely to lead to many business closures and job losses. Additionally, the potential to move between tiers with differing restrictions is a challenging prospect which will require both agility and planning. The industry has showed impressive flexibility this year; adapting to support social distancing, operating in a ‘COVID secure’ manner and, in some cases, introducing a takeaway service to enable much-needed trade. With the majority of England moving into tiers 2 and 3 following the end of lockdown, it seems this ability to adapt will be even more crucial.
REVISIT AND REFRESH COVID-19 RISK ASSESSMENTS The requirement for employers is to complete and communicate a COVID-19 risk assessment, a key part of the Government’s ‘Working
There are a number of considerations for businesses when planning their re-opening, with some key questions to ask; how many of the team are required to operate at different sales thresholds and within different tiers? How will the furlough scheme be utilised? Are staff supported and is guidance followed when they return to work? Are there additional training requirements to ensure the effective delivery of any changes in working practices? Is support being provided with regard to the teams’ mental health and wellbeing during this unusual and stressful time?
SOCIAL DISTANCING Social distancing continues to play an important role in the attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For hospitality businesses, consideration needs to be made for both staff and customers, with practices implemented to enable people to maintain distance. For customers, a range of measures can be introduced such as using distancing floor markers, restrictions on the number of customers allowed inside at any one time, reducing the number of tables, considering table positioning so that customers are back to back and two metres apart, introducing one way systems and installing perspex screens at counters and other highrisk areas. Social distancing becomes more challenging within the kitchen environment. Pressure can be eased and risk minimised by staggering the time of staff arrival and departure, creating shift working and introducing a flexible rota system. If space is limited, introducing one-way travel is an effective way to support distancing. The Government does recognise that social distancing at certain times may just not be possible and there are likely to be specific work activities that cannot take place with measures in place. It is essential that these are identified, and employers ensure that there are increased cleaning routines, a focus on personal hygiene and reduced time spent on the activity to reduce risk.
FACE COVERINGS, CONTACT TRACING AND THE BUBBLE OF SIX Businesses must ensure customers wear face coverings if not seated at their table to eat or drink, staff wear face coverings, bookings to be kept to a minimum of six per party and the NHS COVID-19 app QR code poster displayed with a system in place to capture contact details for customers without access to the app. Communication is key here. Make customers aware of the legal requirements using clear and impactful signage, fully brief all staff members and monitor their compliance. Challenging non-compliant customers may not be easy, but it is important to remember that outside of everyone playing a role in reducing the spread of the virus, there are fines in place for not following measures. Fines have already been issued where breaches have been made, including a takeaway in Essex who received a £1,000 fine last month for serv-
ing a customer four minutes after the 10pm curfew.
HYGIENE Kitchens will already be designed with good hygiene in mind. Now is a time to update cleaning schedules, concentrating on key touch points, cleaning every two hours, and cleaning seats and tables after every sitting. Prior to reopening it would be advisable to carry out dedicated team training on the new cleaning practices and ways that contact with certain surfaces and equipment can be reduced. What else can businesses do? Install customer hand sanitiser stations, remove unnecessary furnishings and other items from eating and cooking areas; clean chefs and front of house uniforms more frequently, and of course, ensure adequate supplies of PPE.
FLEXING THE OFFER With many businesses experiencing periods of closure, decreases in sales, operating with reduced staff and supporting customers to social distance, adapting the offer could make a real impact on driving profitability. We have seen many restaurants, both independent and large chains, move to restricted menus to reduce cost and workload. Undertaking a star/dog analysis to assess dish complexity, profitability and popularity would assist in identifying which dishes to retain when streamlining menus. With the restrictions in dining capacity, along with other social distancing measures, the introduction of a more ‘grab and go’ focused offer, utilising sustainable disposables, could support improved profitability.
SUPPLY CHAIN CONSIDERATIONS Elements of the supply chain have been under extreme pressure as a result of the pandemic. Many foodservice suppliers, still recovering from the initial lockdown, are now carrying out impact assessments, appraising their resource requirements and will need to control costs and optimise distribution. With the possibility of a disruption in supplies of some products, it is important to communicate with suppliers regularly. Give them early indications of volume changes and be flexible on delivery days. Continue to support and extend empathy to suppliers during this challenging trading time, understanding that some flexibility around delivery days and product availability may be required. If a procurement partner, like allmanhall, is being used, they will be in constant dialogue with these suppliers and will offer advice and communicate any adjustments, to provide support. Something else a procurement partner can help with is checking if suppliers have COVID compliant practices in place.
ADVICE AND COMMUNICATIONS With so much change and uncertainty, it has never been more important for employers to communicate with their teams. Employees need to feel engaged, informed and involved in any changes that are taking place to the offer, working schedules, working practices and customer communication. Work collaboratively with the team, encouraging the sharing of ideas, and consult industry experts. Keep up to date on current guidance and access the information and support resources available online from the Government and organisations such as the FSA and UK Hospitality.
Mandating Vaccinations In The Workplace As A Shot In The Arm For The Hospitality Sector?
By Daniel Stander, employment lawyer at Vedder Price LLP (www.vedderprice.com) efficient path to seeing a resurgence for the hospitality sector. For businesses wondering about the immediate implications of a vaccine being widely available, there have been conflicting signals from the UK government around whether it should be mandatory or not for people to get vaccinated in order to access the hospitality sector. This week, the government’s vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, suggested that pubs and restaurants could demand to know if a customer has received a vaccine before allowing them in. This statement contrasted with that of his government colleague, Michael Gove, who subsequently denied that “vaccine passports” would be required.
address this issue, requiring employees to be vaccinated would be highly likely to result in employment disputes and ultimately claims against employers. Associated risks include employees raising various concerns related to pregnancy, disability and religious (or indeed philosophical) belief discrimination, constructive dismissal/unfair dismissal and even potential Human Rights claims. There are also questions as to whether employers can require employees to provide evidence that they have been vaccinated in order to return to the workplace or to take part in certain events (as referenced above), which then, in turn, raise GDPR concerns.
Whilst the government cannot require members of the public to be vaccinated under current law, it appears that it is trying to shift some responsibility for persuading millions of UK citizens to get the vaccine on to businesses. Against that background, many employers in the hospitality sector may be considering whether they can mandate their workforce to be vaccinated.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
SOME *GOOD* NEWS
CAN EMPLOYERS COMPEL THEIR EMPLOYEES?
Make no mistake, the news that the UK has granted approval for the mass rollout of a coronavirus vaccine is a big moment. Whilst the pandemic is not yet at an end, and, for many businesses in the hospitality sector, the reality is one of desperate financial pain and limited government support with continuing restrictions on Christmas trade, there is, at last, real light at the end of the tunnel.
Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workforces, and, in order to make their workplaces “Covid-safe”, employers should take such proportionate steps as are necessary to reduce the risk of infection. That being said, employees are not good candidates for compulsory vaccination – people in general do not like being forced into anything of a medical nature, and employers would have to contend with a raft of contractual and statutory rights impeding their objective.
CONFUSION AFOOT With the vaccine being made available to the most vulnerable groups within the coming weeks, the question arises as to the best and most
At present, and barring the government bringing in new legislation to
One of the key lessons of the pandemic-era is that effective communication should not be underestimated. The best employers will not act in a heavy-handed manner but will instead encourage that all employees who are willing and medically able should get vaccinated. To do so would not only be in keeping with the duty to ensure (so far as is reasonable) the health and safety of the workforce but would also help demonstrate that the business is sensitive to individual concerns on what is a very personal decision. In responding to these concerns, the annual flu vaccine may prove a helpful analogue. By providing information, signposting employees to appropriate external guidance and offering to facilitate the professional administering of the vaccine to consenting employees, businesses in the hospitality sector can and must strike a careful, considered balance between a legitimate and pressing health and safety issue and the enduring individual rights of their employees.