/ Food & Drink

What’s the ‘new normal’ like for restaurants and pubs?

With pubs and restaurants now allowed to reopen across the UK, I thought I’d see for myself what the ‘new normal’ was like. Have you ventured out yet?

There’s been much talk about what the ‘new normal’ would be like for pubs and restaurants once lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Would it be safe? Would it be weird? Would it feel very different to how things were before?

I’m fortunate to not live with anyone classed as high-risk should they catch the virus, so last week I visited a pub for the first time since March.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

My boyfriend and I decided to go on a Tuesday night, just in case the weekend became too busy for our liking.

We booked a table at our local pub in advance and gave our contact details, which are needed in case the pub has to contact us in line with the NHS track and trace programme in the event of an outbreak.

Masks and hand sanitiser

We arrived and the staff had a little booth at the front and they were wearing face masks. They advised us to use hand sanitizer on our hands and then they took us to a seating area that could fit up to four people.

Five tips for avoiding common face mask problems

There were also other people sitting at booths and tables around us but it didn’t feel busy – we felt there were a comfortable number of people.

We used an app to order our drinks and some food, and the waiters brought it to us – table service is the way forward for the time being, in order to avoid people crowding together at the bar.

There were plastic screens at the bar as well, so one or two people could go to the bar if they needed to.

Do you feel comfortable heading out?

Overall it turned out to be an enjoyable experience. I was expecting to feel overwhelmed by the safety and hygiene rules, but the measures at this pub made us feel safe whilst also allowing us to relax and enjoy a glass of wine and a pint in an environment that wasn’t our home!

We’ve since booked to go for a meal at a tapas restaurant and are really looking forward to it. It’s nice to be able to spend money in our area and at local businesses that will have really suffered during a very difficult time.

How do you feel about the new safety measures in pubs and restaurants?

Have you visited one yet? Or are you still staying at home? 

Have you been out since pubs and restaurants have reopened?
Loading ... Loading ...
Robert Lewis says:
17 July 2020

The Government did such a good job making us fearful and ultra cautious that it’ll be a fair while before I’m confident to venture out again to a restaurant.

I believe that the Government have succeeded in putting the fear of death into everyone. I am at risk due to my age but I believe that with respect for each other we are all safe. The provisions made by my local club are very well thought out, and has created a system that ensures social distancing at all times. This has inevitably been at an appreciable initial cost, with ongoing additional running costs. Nevertheless it has created a safe environment and I feel comfortable going out.

On Saturday evenings I meet up with three friends from my university days, on WhatsApp and enjoy a couple of pints of beer at a social distance of at least 100 miles.

I do miss popping out to the local micro pub and meeting locals and strangers from all walks of life but that can wait until life is back to normal or at least the health risk is insignificant.


There is a fear of death if the virus is allowed to spread without any controls. I wonder if the responsible part of the population – the majority – would have been so careful with their behaviour if the government had not made that fear so real? I still open my post with gloves, wear a mask and gloves at the petrol (diesel) station, socially distance and wash my hands a lot.

You could dispense with the gloves when opening the post if you wash your hands afterwards. I still open mine outside and drop the envelopes into the bin. Until someone provides evidence that people are being infected by touching envelopes or unsanitised door handles, I will assume that keeping away from others is the most effective precaution we can take.

It is habit, wavechange, and I am less likely to inadvertently touch my face when wearing a vinyl glove. I think habit, consistency, is helpful. Like opening doors with an elbow. It is easy to forget simple precautions.

Yes indeed. Habit – or in the workplace following standard procedures – is important for all aspects of safety. My mother taught me to wash my hands after using the toilet and I always have done. I also wash my hands as soon as I get home, and that’s more important at present.

I am disappointed at how many people leave a public toilet without washing their hands. I imagine who they are going on to touch, serve food to, leave bacteria on door handles………..

Agreed. This is awful behaviour in normal circumstances, never mind anything else.

It’s disgusting that people don’t wash their hands after visiting the toilet but despite that they manage to survive for a lifetime. Our immune system can usually defend us against low level infections.

What we have learned during the pandemic is that many, particularly young people, show no symptoms of Covid-19, yet they could be exhaling very large numbers of virus particles.

When I do venture out to the pub it will be to one where the drinks are brought to a table outside.

I agree. I hate seeing more than half of women using my local supermarket toilets go straight out into the food hall. But one hears of dozens of people having upset stomachs or worse illnesses. Not all are invented to get time off work. So maybe never in 70 years having had a bad stomach could be at least partly due to hygiene?

thinkofothers says:
17 July 2020

Everybody survives for a lifetime. How frequently does such a person have illnesses, and what about the people round them?

I’m more worried about licking the envelope when I have to send a birthday card.

We, and another couple, all in the vulnerable age group because of our ages are looking forward to eating out again. BUT we are fearful of going to a restaurant where staff do NOT wear face masks – and that seems to be the case with many. It seems impertinent to ask that question when booking. Would it not be better if masks were made compulsory for all staff in restaurants? They are compulsory in shops…..

Brissie – Face coverings will not be compulsory for staff in shops, but all customers will be required to wear them.

If infection from customers is prevented then the risk to staff is significantly reduced and it was felt that to require an employee to wear a face covering continuously for very long periods would be unreasonable.

Daniel Davis says:
17 July 2020

My wife and I went for a walk on Sunday and decided to lunch at pub en route. Used app, sat in garden and enjoyed first such event in 4 months. Relaxing and a relief at some normality. We must, with care, start living more normally again and learn to live with COVID or we will become a mentally and economically destroyed nation

I went to a Wetherspoons last weekend. Wetherspoons’ app, which was implemented years ago for ordering food, worked very well for ordering drinks including paying in-app with Apple Pay. The drinks arrived quickly at our table, and I believe they would have arrived even sooner if I had not ordered Guinness.

However, I was shocked that Wetherspoons had neglected to adjust the push-taps in the loos to remain on for 20 seconds to facilitate proper washing of hands in line with government advice. Instead the taps remain on for only 3 seconds, meaning that to wash one’s hands properly for 20 seconds, one has to press the tap 7 times. Every time one presses the tap again, one recontaminates one’s hands. Clearly Wetherspoons prioritises reducing its water bill ahead of the health of its customers. This is a total disgrace. Even better would he contactless taps, as are common in many offices.

When washing your hands you should wet them, apply soap and rub the hands together covering all parts and then rinse. Rinsing the soap off should take no more than three seconds and there is no need to leave the tap running throughout the washing process.

3 seconds is not long enough for me wavechange and sometimes you only get a quick spurt of water. I have sensitive skin so have to make sure soap is thoroughly rinsed off otherwise my hands will itch like he11. If I have a friend with me I get them to hold down the tap while I rinse or even ask someone else if necessary.

Many automatic taps stay on for a shorter time than they are designed to as a result of wear. I don’t know if they can be adjusted or have to be replaced, but it has long been an annoying problem in pubs and motorway service areas. Hopefully they will be replaced with sensor-controlled taps that turn the water on and off automatically. Perhaps Covid-19 will bring this forward.

I am a frequent hand washer and to avoid skin problems I generally rinse my hands in cool or cold water to minimise skin damage.

It won’t be a problem for a while yet, as we are staying firmly in for now.

Ex GP says:
17 July 2020

There is no debate.
It’s not allowed
There is now no risk.
Society is being deliberately destroyed.
I’m disgusted at my former profession (medical)for not standing up for the truth and all the patients who are still not being treated. If you think I’m wrong think about it again as an awful future unfolds.

It would be useful if you explained the points you raise. I don’t know what position you are taking.

I am going to go ANYWHERE, ANY TIME – provided I actually want to, of course! Happy to mingle with everyone else, if they wish to as well. The only thing putting me off would be the amount of all these ‘precautions’ and restrictions. I want pubs/restaurants to look and feel normal!

thinkofothers says:
17 July 2020

It is because so many people are “mingling”, or walking three abreast on footpaths, that vulnerable people such as my wife and I cannot go anywhere at anytime even if we want to. We have to walk, as our only exercise, very early in the day before the minglers are awake.

In the normal course of events, I won’t be wanting to have to pre-book tables at pubs and cafes. However, I understand from my brother who is a CAMRA members that this is not needed at many pubs.

But while social distancing is still a thing, I probably won’t be heading into pubs unless I am seeking out food and drink with family or friends.

At last, table service in pubs! They have been doing that in Germany for centuries. It cuts out spillage and beer-sodden floor coverings as you try to find your way back to your table without someone bumping your elbow.

I agree. The only British pubs where I’ve previously experienced table service for drinks is Gibraltar.

I will avoid going to pubs, shopping etc unless I have to (e.g. for food), not directly because of Covid19, but because the precautions needed to make it ‘safe’ remove the pleasure from the experience.

I am missing draught beer but we are getting along at home alright on other beverages and, frankly, I have lost the appetite for spending much time in pubs.

It’s nice to have someone else do the cooking and everything, and it is interesting to try menus we might not have at home, but life without that is not entirely disagreeable.

The atmosphere of pubs has lost its appeal with the risks now present. Having to book a time and give your contact details has taken away the impromptu pleasure of just popping into a pub for lunch.

I am not desperate to take advantage of the Chancellor’s half-price [up to £10] discount and VAT drop during August. We can save even more by staying away.

It does worry me, however, that we could lose a lot of pubs which would take the enjoyment out of a day out or visiting an unfamiliar area.

Personally I am not too bothered about the future of most of the eating establishments. Any that were not too expensive were rubbish anyway, certainly the national chains.

There’s a further education college near us which has a large catering school training cooks and others in the hospitality trade. It will be interesting to see whether there is any fall in the numbers enrolling in September; the prospects in the industry are not good right now.

Having not been in a pub since early March I am coping fine. Like John I suspect that the atmosphere of pubs has changed. I do miss popping into a pub for a drink (always real ale, otherwise I would walk out) and a chat. At home I sometimes have a glass of wine with a meal at home, but rarely beer. Since the lockdown started I have been buying a few bottles of beer and an occasional bottle of whisky when I place a supermarket order. Even without the risk of infection, I’m not interested in visiting a pub until life returns to normal.

I enjoy going out for a meal but prefer making a meal with one or more friends. I had one this evening and it’s not that difficult to keep your distance.

Extra garlic should help 🙂

I was thinking of Darth Vader masks all round. 🙂

I have been to 3 different pub restaurants in the past week One, all the staff wore masks & gave us paper menus that they threw away when we had finished with them. The 2nd had a one way system, no staff member wore a mask. We had to queue socially distancing for the salad buffet, A member of
staff to serve people their choice of salad wore gloves & only one person at a time was served. Today I went to another pub/restaurant just re-opened. It is need of a refurb. & as they have been closed for 4 months they should have done it!

I’ve popped in to a village tearoom, very pleasant but the person who brought the food didn’t wear a mask. However I don’t think I’ll be going to any pubs until they start having live music again.

I hadn’t appreciated that live music was off the agenda in pubs. I might reconsider my objection to visiting them now.

I do not understand the obsession with having music imposed all the time, much of it pretty mediocre or worse. Restaurants, shops, documentaries, films……. I’d rather just like be able to hear myself think and have a conversation, listen to the dialogue. We don’t get musical intrusion when we go to the theatre. That seems successful. And if I do need it I can go to a musical or the opera.

Having said that, I do like to have Classic fm on in the garden when I’m weeding or digging. But that is because much of the music is worth listening to and, more to the point, it is from choice.

Live music has a long association with pubs. We have a pub in town that has regular live music and many do enjoy these evenings. A couple of others have occasional music nights. I won’t be there and I also avoid pubs with large screens showing sport.

A few musicians sometimes play at one end of our micropub but it’s quiet and does not affect conversation. On these evenings visitor use the back door because it is difficult to get past the double bass.

Presumably they use a microphone? Singing, blowing instruments will spread the Coronavirus over much greater distances; wearing a mask would be tricky. Play safe. Perhaps they could play outside and willing drinkers could be given headphones?

All I have heard in our micropub has been instrumental music. Having not been since it reopened I do not know if there is any music. Thankfully there is no piped music and all that is ever shown on the TV is a list of beer and cider available.

Somewhere there’s a topic on background music in shops and other places. The problem is that most of it is sourced from places that don’t require licensing, so it tends to be somewhat ropey at best.

It’s always surprised and depressed me, in equal measure, that businesses don’t try using music which is Baroque or Classical.

I used to patronise a bookshop in central London that played classical music and it was very relaxing and the ideal accompaniment to book-browsing. It was largely mainstream classical but occasionally with esoteric pieces that were well-chosen and expanded my musical knowledge.

Before they folded in the UK, Borders bookshops used to play a range of musical genres [I think they sold CD’s] which were quite agreeable. Getting the choice and the volume right seems to be the key.

In pubs I never objected to what came out of the juke box because they were the customers’ own selections and they were usually artistes’ original recordings. In latter days pubs have installed loudspeakers in all parts of all the drinking areas so there is no escape.

I do like the output of some small bands and about a year ago went to a practice night for a jazz and swing band with nineteen musicians. Now, if that came to my local pub I would be there.

George says:
19 July 2020

I have been to one pub since they reopened which was in a quiet country village. I was asked to sign in and leave a phone number. It was not very busy inside but had about three family groups eating at well spaced out tables. I bought two rounds of two beers which we drank outside and kept 2mtrs from the other customers.