Safe Space: The Future of Design in Hospitality

There has been a lot of turbulence and upheaval within the past few months due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and the concept of “normal” life is quickly becoming a distant memory. With the UK government and media outlets emphasising that, for the foreseeable future, societies will need to adapt, what does that mean in practical terms for parts of the economy?

Industries across the globe have been affected by Covid in varying degrees, however none more so than retail and hospitality, whose primary function is to encourage social interactions and gatherings.

Whilst it is positive that the UK Government have made announcements to start re-opening the hospitality industry as of the 4th July, pubs, bars and restaurants are limited to use of their external areas only. In addition, all spaces will be restricted by social distancing and safety measures in order to protect staff and customers.

There has been limited official guidance released for the re-opening of the hospitality industry, although it is reasonable to assume that the same measures utilised in other industries will be for the most part interchangeable with the hospitality industry. This throws up several challenges for operators who need to encourage customers to visit their sites in great enough numbers to ensure the profitability of their businesses.

Currently, guidance states that hospitality businesses must maintain the recommended 2m safe social distance, which greatly limits how effectively these business can operate upon re-opening. To combat this, the hospitality industry is currently lobbying the government to adopt the WHO recommended 1m social distance as this would increase capacity by 4x, and therefore allow more premises to reopen and turn a profit.


Maximising Covers

For many sites in the hospitality sector, space is at a premium, especially for external areas. Combined with utilisation restrictions, trading conditions are likely to be challenging. To combat this, sites which have car parks could utilise some/all of this space to extend usable trading areas through application for a temporary licence. This would allow businesses to increase their external covers, although this would be governed by each individual local authority highways department attitude toward reducing car parking spaces. However, this should be arguable by the fact that the internal covers are not being utilised, so the current number of car parking spaces are not required.

Sites without car parks could apply for street café licences to allow them to place covers on the pavements surrounding the site, as long as local authority requirements can be met. For example, some pavement areas may be too narrow to place tables whilst still maintaining adequate width to provide safe walkways for pedestrians.


Health and Safety

The key to building customer confidence is ensuring adequate safety measures are in place. It may not be enough to maintain social distancing to put your customers at ease. Anxiety is still high for many people when attending public spaces so, wherever possible, additional clear and visible procedures should be in place, such as:

  • All staff to be issued correct PPE – masks, gloves, aprons
  • Wherever possible staff should be working either 2m apart, or where this is not possible side by side or back to
  • Cleaning/sanitising schedules should be clearly advertised to customers on each table as well as at key points
  • Where access to the interior of the site is unavoidable, esnure adequate ventilation with constant fresh air input is
  • Hand sanitising stations at entrances and exits to the site, as well as hand sanitising stations provided to each table of covers
  • Thermal imaging systems to check people’s temperatures as they enter the property
  • Bookings only. Each booking given a 2hr window
  • Proof of ID to discourage meetings between households
  • Table service. No customer to approach the bar servery at any time
  • Disposable and recyclable glassware, plates and cutlery
  • Remote WC facilities


Finding the Balance

People visit pubs and restaurants for social interaction and pleasure. The danger of implementing strict measures, or applying them in such a way as to be overly visible and imposing, could well have the reverse of the desired effect. Whilst your customers want to feel safe, equally they will not want to spend time in a space that is too “sanitised” in its look or lacking in atmosphere.

There is a danger that your meticulously planned out safety measures could magnify the feeling of risk in a customer’s mind rather than minimise it.

It is a very fine line between offering adequate protection, whilst maintaining a comfortable and inviting setting that customers will want to visit. To this end, any measures such as screens, booths, directional signage etc. should be designed in as sympathetic and aesthetically pleasing way as possible.

people sitting inside and others are standing in restaurant