Ahead of hospitality businesses reopening on July 4, the BID held its latest ‘How to make sure you are safe to open’ business support call as part of its Back To Business campaign.
1. Reopening guidance – people and venues with Sylvia Oates from Best Bar None
Sylvia said that Boris’s announcement last week brought the social distancing measurements down to 1 metre+, which will have a significant impact on most businesses’ profitability. Cheltenham is unique in having a set strategy that has been supported and announced by the local authority and supported by the BID, which is head and shoulders above other towns and cities in the UK.
Hospitality is one of the last sectors to reopen which means more place challenges for businesses such as getting finances back on track, maintaining the welfare and hygiene of staff and customers, regaining the trust of customers, staying on brand with customer experience and operational requirements – having to write and adhere to risk assessments, staff challenges and regulations.
Sylvia was not worried about how businesses would manage regulations, it was the public realm that worried her, which will in turn spill over into the licence trade.
The hospitality sector is less likely to change their business model to online, even if businesses have offered a takeaway service during lockdown.
Different businesses have different venue layouts in terms of social distancing and operational controls which makes it an uneven playing field between businesses.
Moving on to people, the businesses needed to think about the availability of staff. If businesses have SIA door staff Sylvia advised them to contact providers as soon as possible because some staff may have been relocated to supermarkets or somewhere else. Absences through COVID-19 and self -isolation may become a challenge which could affect staff scheduling. There is a recommendation that you look at staggered break, start and finish times for staff and think about what that would look like and what impact that will have on your operations.
Staff return-to-work interviews and health screening questionnaires were needed and new operating systems, skills refreshment, and COVID-19 measures should all be shared with staff.
Moving on to operational considerations for hospitality venues, July 4 is the earliest businesses can reopen but that does not mean that you need to reopen on that date. A lot of hospitality venues in the UK are opening on the Tuesday after to give themselves a soft run before reopening. The things to think about are the capacity businesses can host inside their venues whilst maintaining social distancing. If businesses are thinking about varying opening hours or serving areas, please let Cheltenham BID know and make sure to apply for the necessary license.
It is worth going through some dry runs and role-playing staff pretending to be customers to see if plans work. It is important to think about your booking and cancellation procedures. Businesses must follow the guidance that reinforces keeping tables to the two household bubbles only. The guidance is that businesses should facilitate at-table-ordering either through apps or waited service. The table ordering apps advised by Sylvia were Be Seated and My Smart Bar. Businesses may want to also streamline the product offering to help increase profitability.
The Government will be releasing more guidance on data capture, but it is likely to only be as simple as name and email or phone number. If businesses are storing data It is worth registering with the Information commissioner’s office (ICO) if you haven’t done so yet.
As businesses are looking to reopen their premises there are essentials that need to be checked. See our getting your business ready essentials here.
Sylvia advised businesses to check their policing plan and have staff trained on how to deal with violence and drunkenness. If a business is not part of the radio network now is a good time to join.
Tools to use are disposable serve wear as well as disposable condiment dishes. Copper is a low transfer surface so it would be worth looking into cutlery and dishes as well as hygiene products that are available for customers such as door pools (these are operated by feet rather than hands), anything to decrease the number of contact points in your premises.
Think about the signage you can bring into your premises such as chalk boards that can be used to let your customers know what to expect as well as showing your personality and brand.
Moving on to consumer confidence, the BID and Sylvia would recommend promoting measures and hygiene very strongly even before reopening the business. Risk assessments, measures and booking processes can be added to websites and shared across digital channels. It is being advised to have a host at the front door so when customers arrive to use a business premise, they are very clear on what to expect and the house rules before entering. The smell of disinfectant will give customers reassurance that your premises has been recently cleaned. Be more obvious with cleaning and have a visual checklist on the wall that customers can see.
Lastly, businesses still need to be able to produce a valuable experience for customers, so think about how to inject some fun. If businesses decide to give members of staff face coverings, add some smiles, or use the see-through visors so staff faces can be seen.
Think about how to support social distancing with humour, including touches of your brand and do not forget there is no live entertainment allowed in venues.
If any businesses have any questions or need that extra bit of help to become COVID -secure please email Sylvia direct at email@example.com
2. How to make sure you are safe to reopen with Bernadette Reed, Senior Environmental Health Officer at Cheltenham Borough Council
Bernadette is one of the officers responsible for advising and enforcing on food safety, health and safety and infectious disease legislation and good practice within Cheltenham borough. As an Environmental Health Officer, she was also given the relevant powers to enforce the recent ‘Restriction Regulations’ which required certain businesses and venues to close.
Due to the difficult and uncertain times for businesses the key message from Bernadette regarding compliance was one of engagement and encouragement in the first instance with enforcement as a last resort for blatant breaches.
While reducing the transmission risks from COVID-19 may be new to businesses the approach to controlling risks is not and the same systematic approach should be adopted for COVID as you would do for any other health and safety hazard, such as electricity, legionella and asbestos. The requirement to control the transmission of COVID within the workplace comes under long-established health and safety legislation.
The challenge for the businesses now is to try to be COVID-secure, which means being able to trade and letting the public know that you will be trading safely. If the public can see that you have controls in place, it will in turn encourage them to come into your business and spend. It is the businesses’ responsibility to do this and CBC is here to help them succeed.
Before reopening all businesses, or when businesses are allowed back into their premises, a risk assessment must be carried out – if a business needs assistance with how to conduct a risk assessment Bernadette can help and advise during these times. An important point is that if you have five or less employees on site it does not have to be an actual written assessment, points can be verbally communicated, with over five it is more difficult to communicate. Bernadette recommends that all businesses, regardless of size, put pen to paper, even if it is just bullet points to help businesses review controls in these rapidly changing times. Businesses with more than five employees must document the findings of the assessment. There is excellent information on the HSE website here
Businesses with more than 50 employees are encouraged to put the findings of their assessments on their website. Bernadette wanted to stress that a risk assessment is not a document, it is a process and what she sometimes finds is a business has a really good document on paper but it doesn’t translate to a good practice on the ground. Conversely, just because a document is a little inadequate or poor, it doesn’t translate to bad practice. The two go hand-in-hand.
It is also important for a business to constantly reassess the practicalities of their controls and check they work. Once the business has stabilized then this monitoring can be scaled back. The simple measures are the most effective and if a business can demonstrate they have given due regard as to what measures are needed and can demonstrate they have been implemented then the enforcement officer will be happy. This may be done remotely or by a site spot visit as appropriate.
These are unique circumstances and Bernadette would ask businesses to try and push to be on the upper end of the COVID- compliance level. Sometimes what the what the public deem necessary is not necessarily what the law requires.
If any businesses have any questions or need that extra bit of help to become COVID -secure please email Bernadette direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Updates on licensing changes with Jason Kirkwood, Senior Licensing Officer at Cheltenham Borough Council.
Cheltenham is lucky because we have Day Safe, Night Safe, Cheltenham Borough Council and Cheltenham BID working together, producing a strong hospitality partnership.
The Cheltenham Borough Council licensing team have their own recovery page found here.
The team have produced a series of bulletins for licensed premises in response to COVID-19 issues and queries, including off-sales and minor variations.
In addition to the recovery plan there is a Business and Planning bill being discussed which may well bring some significant changes in for off-sales, takeaways and tables and chairs licenses, particularly around cutting consultation times. Cheltenham has worked with the Police and other partners on producing guidance and making minor variations to allow off-sales, which may well give a blanket permission for all on-sale traders.
In respect to pavement licenses Cheltenham has tried to help businesses by allowing businesses minor variations on what they can do. The bill is out for consultation now and will be useful for businesses who do not have table and chair access but need help with temporary changes.
The Police and Licensing have worked together to organise some visits starting from July 4 and those visits are to support businesses as much as possible and to make sure there is level playing field for businesses.
Jason wanted to let all businesses know that Cheltenham Borough Council are offering the Award for Personal Licensed Holders, which is useful for designated venues and is now available online. You can now take the training and exam online.
See the ‘keeping workers and customers safe during covid-19 restaurants pubs bars takeaways’ -Government guidance here.
4. Questions & Answers
A question was asked around applying for an extension or a new tables and chairs license.
Please see the tables and chairs application here.
It is hoped that new measures will soon be in place to allow permission to be granted within five working days, compared to the normal 28-day public consultation. To benefit from this, a business will need to confirm in a covering email only that its immediate neighbours either side have no objection to you serving on the pavement.
If you already have permission but want to extend the space you are using, then please email email@example.com along with a revised plan/drawing. Licensing will then generate a form that will be pre-populated with your information to save time, which will be sent back to you.