• Adam Whittaker

What next?

I don’t need to reiterate how difficult these last few months have been and I’m not going to eulogise right now about its affect on me, both personally and professionally, I will return to that at some point. However, from a broader perspective, the crippling effect of what has happened across our social lives is well documented.

At the time of writing our esteemed leaders have made reference to the fact that sectors of the hospitality industry may be able to open their doors again on the 4th July. Hurrah! We all cheered and clapped in unison, reminiscent of the now forgotten clap for carers. Within weeks, we will all be able to flood to bars and restaurants, toasting rekindled friendships and companionship, laughing heartily about those long gone days of face masks, touching elbows and walking round fellow pedestrians on the pavement in a manner more suited to leprosy not some pesky virus.

This of course just isn’t going to happen. Irrespective of the immoral, irresponsible and downright idiotic raves that we were witness to in parks in Greater Manchester a few days ago, such social gatherings (unless you want to save a statue) are not going to rematerialise in a matter of days. Queues for Primark, KFC and other such highbrow outlets may signal otherwise but if you’re planning on waiting for 10 minutes at a bar with several dozen other people (or hundred if you happen to be in a Wetherspoons) it isn’t going to reappear as a Friday night highlight soon. Or will it?

And that is just the point. Will it? Friends, colleagues and clients across the food and drink sector don’t know because they have absolutely no guidance whatsoever. Facing decimation unseen in over a generation, the hospitality industry is doing its very best to dust itself down and try and get back to business. But what does their business now look like? Many, having overcome the initial shock of being told to shut up shop as soon as was possible, or tonight as the Prime Minister said at the time, have attempted to reassess their offering, shifting from dining out to dining in. Six By Nico, Elite Bistros and  Iberica amongst others have literally delivered the highest quality food and drink imaginable to your door, maintaining their already fantastic reputations and enhancing them some what. Others though are still floundering, desperately waiting for the green light. But is it a green light, or amber or a little pink. No one seems to know. Two metre social distancing, one metre, or everybody do the conga and French kiss each other if there happens to be a public holiday. As with schools and dental practices, Government proclaims that they will be open again forthwith, yet none of the regulatory bodies involved in the latter had any idea that this was imminent and had therefore, understandably, made no preparation.

Compare this to Australia and in particular Western Australia in this case – and thanks to my good friend Neil for bringing this to my attention. As of their daily updated guidance the following applied from a couple of months ago:

27 April 2020

  1. indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings of up to 10 people

  2. outdoor personal training without shared equipment

  3. recreational activities in compliance with travel restrictions and the 10-person rule, such as private picnics in the park, fishing, boating, hiking and camping

  4. home opens and display villages open, in compliance with 10-person rule, appropriate record keeping and hygiene practices.

18 May 2020

Physical distancing, good hygiene and the 4 square metre rule apply to all activities.

  1. indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings of up to 20 people

  2. cafés and restaurants with meal service permitted to open, including within pubs, bars, clubs, hotels and casino, with a 20 patron limit

  3. weddings and funerals up to 20 people inside or 30 outside

  4. Western Australians encouraged to return to work, unless unwell or vulnerable

  5. regional travel restrictions relaxed, with travel permitted throughout most of WA

  6. non-contact community sports up to 20 participants

  7. outdoor or indoor fitness classes with no shared equipment, up to 20 participants

  8. places of worship, community facilities and libraries permitted to reopen, up to 20 patrons.

  9. public pools (1 indoor and multiple outdoor) permitted to open under strict rules and up to 20 patrons per pool.

  10. businesses required to comply with conditions outlined in the COVID Safety Guidelines and prepare a COVID Safety Plan before they reopen

6 June 2020

  1. The number of people at non-work gatherings has increased, and additional businesses can reopen

  2. The 4 square metre rule has been revised to 2 square metres per person for all WA venues

  3. Physical distancing, good hygiene and the 2 square metre rule apply to all activities permitted in Phase 3

Public gatherings

  1. non-work indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people per single undivided space, and up to 300 people in total per venue over multiple spaces (100/300 rule)

  2. weddings and funerals up to 100 people

Food and beverage

  1. food businesses and licensed premises may operate but only with seated service

  2. alcohol may be served without a meal at licensed premises (patrons must be seated)

  3. food courts can reopen, but patrons must be seated when eating

Wellbeing and health services

  1. all beauty services including nail, tanning and waxing salons can resume

  2. saunas, bath houses, wellness centres, float centres, spas and massage centres may reopen (100/300 rule)

Leisure and recreation

  1. gyms, health clubs, and indoor sports centres can offer the normal range of activities, including use of all gym equipment (gyms must be staffed at all times and undertake regular cleaning)

  2. contact sport and training

  3. playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment and skate parks are permitted to be used

  4. galleries, museums, theatres, auditoriums, cinemas and concert venues can reopen (during any performance, the patrons must be seated (100/300 rule)

  5. Perth Zoo to open with no patron limit for the whole venue (the 100/300 rule applies to indoor spaces and cafés/restaurants)

  6. wildlife and amusement parks can reopen (100/300 rule)

  7. arcades (including pool/snooker, ten pin bowling, Timezone), skate rinks and indoor play centres (100/300 rule)

I think the word I am looking for is specific. I don’t think there is any room for doubt on what you can and can’t do. Can Jack, who has been screening for the last 3 months pop in and have a pint of Worthingtons Creamflow, 2 bags of pork scratchings and talk about how shit Thatcher was. Of course – as long has he stays at least 2sqm away from anyone else (or lets just go for 2m) and sits down. The other question rising from this however is, would Jack want to? With underlying health conditions including diabetes, and a frail wife at home? His daily routine has disappeared as quickly as a shelf of toilet roll in May but now would he want to put himself and his wife at risk? I don’t and I don’t suffer from any of the aforementioned bit I do still want to protect my wife and extended family. I may pop to Jane Eyre or the Crown and Kettle if I can poke people with a 2m stick should they dare encroach but even then, not for a while yet even though I am desperate for a pint in a pub.

And I appreciate that the devastation in Australia was incomparable to the UK with only 104 deaths and I mean absolutely no disrespect to those who lost loved ones by the use of ‘only’ but it does accentuate the fact of how much we have got this so horribly wrong on these shores. The amount of U-turns (and I’m not referring to the admirable work of Marcus Rashford), changes of direction and mixed messages have meant that we have been confused at every turn.

So many industries and businesses, but the hospitality sector in particular, now needs some clear guidance on how they can navigate the next few months.

If you need any help with how to market your business in the ‘new world’ drop me a line