The hospitality and catering industry is central to the lives of everyone in the UK. Over the past few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have felt the loss of being unable to go out for dinner to celebrate a birthday, to meet our friends in the pub for a drink or to pop to our local cafe for coffee and a piece of cake. However, as one of the largest employment sector in the UK, no one has felt the devastating impact more than the 3.2 million people1 employed in catering jobs.
When it was announced back in March that pubs and restaurants were to close, it came as a shock to everyone in the industry. The immediate impact was that the entire catering sector was closed for business. Where a proportion of the British population were being told to work from home, this was not an option for those in catering jobs and employees either found themselves out of work or on furlough from their hospitality jobs for the foreseeable future.
Since then, slowly but surely many restaurants and food establishments have rallied and we are already seeing the catering industry evolve. From small independent cafes to larger restaurant chains, businesses are adapting to incorporate the new measures of safety and social distancing so they can continue to serve their customers, employ their staff and keep their businesses going in this extremely difficult time.
How has the catering industry adapted to the current situation?
While no longer able to open for customers to come in and sit down to eat, restaurants have had to diversify their business model and instead take their food to the customer. The addition of delivery services by many restaurants, pubs and cafes has been seen throughout the catering sector, enabling businesses to keep going and catering jobs to stay filled.
An innovative idea offered by some restaurants is the delivery of food and recipe boxes, supplying customers with fresh produce and ingredients to cook ‘restaurant’ meals at home.
As lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted, we are seeing more opportunity for food establishments to now provide takeaway meals, some delivering direct to the customer in their car.
What immediate changes will the catering industry face when they reopen?
The way that the kitchen and front of house staff operate and the interaction with customers will have to change significantly when restaurants reopen. Food establishments providing delivery and takeaway food have already had to become compliant and take the relevant precautions to keep catering staff and customers safe. This will be the number one priority for all businesses once they are given the go ahead to open.
Some of the key changes we will see for those returning to catering and hospitality jobs are:
- Social distancing – this will be required in the kitchen, staff room and dining areas.
- Reducing contact between people as much as possible – kitchen staff, front of house staff, delivery staff and customers.
- Extra hygiene measures – increased hand washing and surface washing.
- Working back to back or side to side, not face to face.
- Working in fixed teams or partners to reduce the number of people each employee has contact with.
- Using screens or barriers between staff members and customers where possible.
- Reduced menu options to keep things simple and more manageable.
- Opening hours may vary to accommodate customers and adhere to social distancing.
Visit the gov.uk website for more information for restaurants on working safely during COVID-19.
UK Hospitality, an organisation which represents the broad hospitality sector, is working on publishing recommended guidance for restaurants, pubs and cafes prior to reopening. This will help with their risk assessment and support them with opening safely.
NCASS (the Nationwide Caterers Association) also has a useful guide for restaurants and their staff for safe trading during COVID-19. It is likely these guidelines will continue to apply for some time.
Aside from meeting all the necessary safety precautions, one of the main priorities for the catering industry is to restore customer confidence, not only in their own establishments but in the hospitality industry as a whole. Reports have found that many consumers, after being isolated for so long, are understandably nervous about going out to eat as soon as government restrictions are lifted2.
It is important then that restaurants ensure customers feel safe and reassured when they visit by informing them of the measures being taken. These can include:
- Seating areas spaced further apart.
- Outside seating available where possible.
- Social distancing in practice.
- Hand sanitiser available.
- Enhanced cleaning.
- Enhanced food safety and hygiene.
- No cash, contactless payment where possible.
What is the long-term future for the catering industry and catering jobs?
The future of the hospitality and catering industry is not yet know and is likely to undergo a few changes over the coming weeks and months as it settles into whatever the new ‘normal’ may be.
As we look to the future of the catering industry post COVID-19, there are some positive changes we may see:
- More locally sourced foods as there is less opportunity for contamination within the supply chain.
- Use of mobile phones in restaurants to view menus, order and pay, reducing direct contact between customer and waiting staff.
- A more personal approach where customers are welcomed back to enjoy the restaurant experience. People will appreciate this even more after being unable to eat out for so long.
This is a very worrying time for many people, no one knows for sure when they will be able to return to work and what ‘work’ will look like when they do. Although it may require more time and some encouragement, people WILL return to the cafes, pubs and restaurants and when they do, catering jobs will become widely available again.
In the meantime, our blog Adapting to and coping with catering jobs in healthcare environments will give you an insight into some other opportunities for temporary hospitality jobs.
To see the latest job opportunities, visit our Hospitality and Catering Jobs page.
The hospitality and catering industry will always be a part of our society. There will be many changes along the way - some temporary, some permanent; there may be some losses and it is inevitable that we will sadly see some businesses go completely. However, as time moves on, many restaurants will pick up, new establishments will rise and catering jobs will once again be available for Chefs and catering assistants and hotels and businesses will again be needing staff to fill hospitality jobs.
If your job has been affected by COVID-19, our blog from Mental Health Awareness Week offers advice and suggestions for coping and adjusting to the impact it has had on your day-to-day life.
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1 #FAIR4HOSPITALITY - UKHospitality. 2020. #FAIR4HOSPITALITY - UKHospitality. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/FAIR4HOSPITALITY. (https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/FAIR4HOSPITALITY) [Accessed 03 June 2020].
2 CGA. 2020. Why big won’t be beautiful when reopening pubs and restaurants - CGA. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cga.co.uk/2020/05/15/why-big-wont-be-beautiful-when-reopening-pubs-and-restaurants/. (https://www.cga.co.uk/2020/05/15/why-big-wont-be-beautiful-when-reopening-pubs-and-restaurants/ ) [Accessed 03 June 2020].