When Can We Go Inside the Pub? – The Return of Indoor Dining 

The dates for lockdown easing are firmly imprinted on calendars, diaries and WhatsApp groups across the country and the next one is arguably one of the biggest yet. We’ve all probably braved the British weather to get in a drink or some food with friends, but from 17th May, we’ll see the return of indoor dining.

This step of the lockdown roadmap is a real hint at ‘normal’ and offers hospitality another vital recovery boost after a very encouraging month that saw dining out overtake takeaway sales for the first time this year. 

What are the rules from May 17th? 

The major changes to the lockdown rules on May 17th relate to dining, both inside and outside. From this date, you will be able to: 

  • Dine inside pubs and restaurants (following the rule of six or two households guidance) 
  • Dine/gather outside in groups of up to 30 people
  • Meet in private homes (six people or two households) 
  • Travel and staying overnight with someone from another household (a boost to the staycation and tourism sectors too)
  • Attractions such as cinemas will also open, as well as indoor group sports and some indoor events

What will indoor dining look like? 

While we’re waiting for clarification on any additional specifics of the indoor dining rules, it’s fair to presume the regulations will be similar to the last time we were allowed in pubs and restaurants – which feels like a long time ago now! 

Back then, we were introduced to track and trace, plastic screen, table service only, one-way systems and masks when walking around. Masks and limited numbers are the most likely rules to stick around for a little while, and we are now all used to checking in on the app when out and about, so it will probably all feel like a small price to pay for a bit more normality! 

There’s also speculation about the role technology will continue to play once things open back up properly, with many in the industry having invested in customised apps, digital menus and contactless ordering systems via QR codes. Will normal table service resume, or will this more streamlined, app-based system for ordering and paying continue? We’ll have to wait and see!

Nicola Mills, Marketing Director at Billington Foodservice, had this to say on the reopening of the industry:

“The hospitality industry has opened 70% faster compared to the ending of lockdown in July 2020, which has been a welcome end to this most recent lockdown. We’ve noted that consumer confidence is also at its highest point since the start of the pandemic. Our customers as well as the wider hospitality industry have invested heavily in outdoor space and this is showing in their most recent orders; and certainly, paving the way for a more positive future. Due to the expanded outdoor space hospitality covers will be significantly increased and we are looking forward to the 17th of May for indoor opening.

It has been a bumpy ride but the industry is starting to have a buzz and a vibe that hasn’t been seen since pre-pandemic which is encouraging for full opening on the 21st of June and for the next 6 months; supporting the predictions that 2022 will be back to 2019 levels of eating out of home!”