Return to normal for catering jobs

Return to normal for catering jobs

The last month has seen a gradual lift of the lockdown as sector by sector industries have slowly started opening up and people are returning to work if they cannot work from home. However, the truth is ‘normal’ may never be the same as we once knew it and a new ‘normal’ may emerge as businesses and lifestyles adapt to a different way of doing things. As people slowly return to the workplace, health and safety considerations mean that working environments will be very different for the foreseeable future and for those in catering jobs this will have quite an impact on the way you work with your colleagues and the manner in which services are delivered to the customer.

What will service delivery be like in the catering and hospitality industry?

The announcement last week that restaurants, pubs, cafes and hotels in England can open once again on the 4th July has come as a huge relief for everyone in catering careers, but many changes and alterations will need to be made to the working environment to ensure workplace health and safety meets the new restrictions set out by the government. 

The short-term impact for working environments in catering

Initially, when planning to eventually reopen, the 2 metre social distancing rule was a huge stumbling block for many restaurants and pubs. They had been facing a difficult decision; was it viable to open when capacity could be reduced by up to 50% in order to adhere to the rules? It has been met with relief by the catering and hospitality industry that the restriction has been reduced to one metre plus.

Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive at UKHospitality, stated that the two metre rule would have been ‘totally unviable for most businesses and would have risked even more jobs and the futures of venues.’1 

This is all good news for those in catering careers as staff will be needed to return to work, all be it in a rather different working environment. 

Many Chefs, Kitchen Porters, Catering Assistants, Waiting Staff and Cleaners have been on furlough since lockdown began in March, so resuming their hospitality or catering jobs will be the start of a return to normality. There may also be opportunities for temporary kitchen or hotel staff, as some permanent staff members may be unable to return immediately if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been instructed to shield for a period of time. 

There may also be a need for additional staff as catering establishments have to rearrange shifts and schedules to accommodate the new government guidance. The need for more frequent cleaning in both restaurant and hotel settings may also offer more opportunities for Front of House and Housekeeping staff. 

Another big consideration for the catering and hospitality industry is the public’s perception of restaurants and hotels in a post-COVID-19 world. There will be a  proportion of the population who may be reluctant or nervous to return to these public places. Hospitality businesses will need to reassure their customers that all precautions are in place to make their premises as safe as possible for them to return. 

On the other hand, after months of lockdown the instinct for many is a need to get out and socialise. For some people, even though things may be a little different for the foreseeable future, going to the pub for a pint, having a latte in the local coffee shop or a meal in a restaurant will be just what they need for that sense of a return to normality.

That feeling of normality is not only the customers but also for those in catering careers, getting back into the workplace will be the first step in returning to normal. 

Customer experience will, however, be different in the short-term as catering establishments have to adhere to strict workplace health and safety regulations to keep working environments for staff and communal areas for customers all within the guidelines. It is likely that menus will be reduced, and hours may vary to accommodate different shift patterns. 

Everyone in catering jobs will need to adapt and take responsibility to ensure the new customer experience is memorable for all the right reasons. Quality food and drink and a good atmosphere will be more important than ever. The public must be encouraged to come back out and enjoy hospitality again by building confidence and enabling a healthy return for the industry. 

What changes will we see as restaurants, pubs and hotels reopen?

Social distancing

  • Capacity limited to the number of customers that enables the 1+ metre social distancing requirement
  • Change of layout to accommodate social distancing rules and enable easier movement of staff
  • Screens and barriers used where needed to separate staff and staff/customers


  • Adequate provision of hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities for customers and staff
  • More frequent and thorough cleaning of tables and seating in restaurants and communal areas and rooms in hotels. Increased cleaning and disinfecting in food preparation areas

Managing customers

  • Table service only for indoor eating and drinking
  • Outdoor table service encouraged
  • Minimal staff contact with customers where possible
    • single staff member per table; fixed teams so employees work with the same small group of people
    • encourage the use of contactless payment
    • use of apps to order food from the table
  • Customers and visitors must provide contact details to assist test and trace

Catering staff

  • Change in shift patterns
  • Employee wellness and temperature checks
  • Clean clothes worn daily

Visit the website for the latest guidance on reopening for restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes and hotels.

The medium-term outlook for working environments in catering

As consumers get over any initial concerns over safety and see how restaurants and pubs have adapted, it can be hoped that over time more will return to eating and drinking out. As we progress through the summer it is hopeful that restaurants may have the opportunity to attract more customers. As less people will be going away on holiday this year, they may have to ‘holiday from home’ and with a little extra cash in their pockets, as confidence increases more may venture out to restaurants and pubs to satisfy their inherent desire to socialise. 

Eventually social distancing restrictions will be lifted or reduced further, but at this time we don’t know if that will be within weeks or months. Those in catering careers will have to plan for the possibility of this being the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future.

 As consumer confidence increases and restaurants, pubs and hotels adapt to their new business model, it is likely that more people will be able to return to their catering jobs. Some catering and hospitality establishments may not consider it viable to open in July when restrictions are first lifted. If they are able to continue weathering the storm, as more people resume eating out we may see more food businesses reopening or even new ones being established. If this is possible then we may see more opportunities returning for catering jobs.   

What further changes might we see in restaurants, pubs and hotels?

  • Continued increase in use of takeaway and delivery services
  • Temperature checks for customers on entry through the use of thermal cameras
  • Increased customer confidence resulting in more customers returning
  • New creative innovations by restaurants and hotels to make up for lost revenue
  • Increased menu choices
  • Hope for some relaxation of rules to enable increased capacity

The long-term outlook for working environments in catering

As restaurants and hotels pick up from the loss of business over the lockdown period and beyond, they will need to look ahead and plan for the future. 

No one can say for sure what the long term outlook may be, but with the approach of the Christmas and New Year period, catering and hospitality businesses will need to ensure it is as lucrative as possible. It could be hoped that given the difficult year everyone has faced, by the time we reach the Christmas season, restrictions will have been lifted further, consumer confidence restored and those in catering jobs can expect a busy run of Christmas dinners and New Year parties. This would be a real boost to the industry and a sign that those in catering careers can look forward to resuming normality. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible that we may see some permanent long-term changes in the catering industry. The emergence of new innovative technology such as contactless ordering from the restaurant table via an app, may become the new norm. Likewise, the increase in online ordering for pick up or delivery is likely to continue as people enjoy the ease and convenience of eating restaurant quality food at home. 

The impact of this for the catering industry will likely be a continuing increase in the need for Delivery Drivers. Chefs, Kitchen Porters and Catering Assistants, while their working environments may change, will remain in demand. But will there be a permanent change in the way that Waiting Staff, Bar Staff and Baristas work and interact with customers? It can be hoped that people’s desire to eat out and enjoy the social ambience of a pub or restaurant, and the opportunity to interact with real people will still remain and perhaps come back even stronger than before.

Read our blog from last month for more on the outlook for recovery of the catering industry post COVID-19.

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