Government tells bars and restaurants normality will take months to return

pizza express

The government is expected to douse any expectations that pubs and restaurants will return to normal in the near future.

Officials have asked restaurant, pub and bar operators for feedback on the viability of their businesses under four different social-distancing scenarios.

The owner of one big London restaurant group said it would be impossible to open any restaurants under the current social-distancing guidelines as a circle of two metres around tables would stop staff being able to serve customers and would only allow dining rooms to operate at 30 per cent of capacity.

Des Gunewardena, chief executive of D&D, which runs 38 restaurants in the UK, said he had been modelling restaurant layouts with tables 1 metre, 1.5 metres and 2 metres apart, as well as sourcing hand sanitiser, PPE and air purifiers.

Fast-food chains such as Burger King and KFC, which have reopened a number of sites for delivery in the past week, have installed clear plastic screens at till points and demarcated 2 metre spaces on the floor to keep customers apart. Staff have also been spread out further in kitchens, forcing the restaurants to offer limited menus of about 10 to 12 items.

A London bar owner said he was considering plastic cubicles to separate groups but said social distancing at entrances, exits and in the toilets would be impossible. “It’s not like a supermarket aisle where you can have one-way systems,” he said.

Cinema chains Cineworld and Vue are both reprogramming their online booking systems to only allow staggered seating and said they planned to show fewer films at any one time.