Operating a hospitality business safely

A checklist of measures to help protect yourself, your staff and your customers during coronavirus

These are the priority actions to help keep your business safe and legally compliant during coronavirus. It is your responsibility to keep up to date with developments, and you should also read the full version of the guidance regarding restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may also need to consider the guidance for shops, hotels and accommodation providers or entertainment venues.

Restrictions on business operations

Following the move to Step 2 on 12 April 2021, outdoor areas at hospitality venues can reopen to serve customers in groups of up to 6 people or 2 households. These venues may allow customers to use toilets, baby changing rooms or breast-feeding rooms located inside.

Some venues may wish to erect outdoor shelters. To be considered ‘outdoors’, shelters, marquees and other structures can have a roof but need to have at least 50% of the area of their walls open at all times whilst in use.

At any premises serving alcohol, customers will be required to order, be served and eat/drink while seated (even if no alcohol is ordered). If a hospitality venue does not serve alcohol, then customers will be able to order and collect food and drink from a counter but must consume food and drink while seated at a table.

From Step 2 on 12 April 2021, hospitality venues will also be allowed to provide takeaway alcohol. Takeaway food and drink (including alcohol) must not be consumed on the premises or adjacent to the premises.

Steps you must take to protect yourself, your staff, and your customers during coronavirus:

  • Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment, including consideration of the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and customers with disabilities. Share it with all your staff. Find out how to do a risk assessment.
  • Ensure self-isolation requirements are complied with. It is a criminal offence to allow an employee who you know is required to self-isolate to come to your premises to work. Ensure that all staff know that they must inform you as soon as they know that they are required to self-isolate, including the start and end dates of their self-isolation period. This includes those who have received a positive Covid-19 test result or who have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Failure to do so could result in a fine starting from £1,000.
  • Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a customer has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating. Employers must not require someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work. Any employer asking a worker to break self-isolation to work is committing an offence.
  • Remind your customers that it is a legal requirement to wear face coverings when inside your premises, except when seated to eat or drink. You must also prominently display signs or notices to advise your customers that face coverings must be worn. Some exemptions apply. For more information visit www.gov.uk/
  • Face coverings are also required to be worn by employees in catering premises in areas that are open to the public and where staff will or are likely to come into close contact with customers, for example while providing table service. Some exemptions apply. Please note that a face shield or visor is not acceptable as a form of face covering. Check when to wear one and exemptions here.
  • You must take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all your customers, visitors, and staff for 21 days. This is a legal requirement. Some exemptions apply. Check ‘Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace’ for details.
    • Display the official NHS QR code poster. Official NHS QR posters can be generated online.
    • Ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to check in to your venue or provide their contact details.
    • Have a system in place to ensure that you can collect information from your customers and visitors who do not have a smartphone or do not want to use the NHS COVID-19 app. You must keep this data for 21 days and provide it to NHS Test and Trace if it is requested.
  • Clean more often. Follow government guidance on cleaning food preparation and food service areas. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
  • Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system that your customers can follow. Enable people in the same party who do not live together to remain a safe distance apart.
  • Provide adequate ventilation. This means supplying fresh air to enclosed space where people are present. This can be natural ventilation through windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both. Read advice on air conditioning and ventilation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
  • Consider the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19 for yourself and others. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Three more things to be aware of if your business is a restaurant, pub, bar or takeaway:

  • Keep groups apart. Space out tables, consider using barriers between groups, and manage the number of customers in the venue. This is required by law. Manage the number of customers in the venue.
  • Manage food and drink service safely. Avoid situations where customers need to collect their own cutlery and condiments. Avoid contact between staff and customers.
  • Lower music and other background noise. Prevent shouting, singing, and dancing in the venue by making sure music and broadcasts are played at a low volume.

These are the priority actions to make your business safe during coronavirus, you should also read the full version of the guidance, available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/restaurants-offering-takeaway-or-delivery


It’s important that you continue to put measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including maintaining social distancing, frequent cleaning, good hygiene, and adequate ventilation, even if your workers have:

  • received a recent negative test result
  • had the vaccine (either 1 or 2 doses)

Where you are providing testing on site, you should ensure that workplace testing is carried out in a safe manner and in an appropriate setting where control measures are in place to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the testing process.

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a free NHS PCR test.

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