Preparing for a safe and sustainable return to service

Covid-19 has delivered the foodservice sector an unprecedented challenge. Shutting with a moment’s notice was very hard to plan for but even with both hands tied behind our backs the sector has done what it always does – thought on its feet and adapted.

This is a time to review operations from the point of view of safety and sustainability as well as revenue generation and capitalise on the trends and changes in behaviour that have emerged during lockdown.

Make sure you are up to speed with the latest government guidance and check our our guide, below, to help you re-open with sustainability in mind.

During lockdown we surveyed operators about their hopes, expecations and anticipated change as a result of the pandemic. Here are some of the standout findings:

1 %
Of operators are most concerned about a lack of customers and financial insecurity on re-opening
1 %
Have moved to a delivery during COVID-19 and will continue after re-opening
1 %
Are willing and able to focus on environmental and social sustainability on re-opening


Communicate with customers about social distancing both before they visit and on arrival.


Encourage customers to use hand sanitiser on arrival.


Keep a temporary record of your customers for 21 days to assist NHS Test and Trace (use your booking system to do this).


Calculate maximum number of customers while adhering to distancing guidelines (2 metres where possible or 1m with mitigation in place, and then reconfigure seating to meet these guidelines.


Manage queues – liaise with local authorities, landlords and neighbours to ensure safe queuing.


Maintain two metres when taking orders, use distancing markers, contactless payments and ask customers to stay at their tables.


If providing disposable condiments encourage staff to ask customers if they want condiments and only provide on request to avoid unnecessary waste.

Where possible, establish alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time, allowing them to maintain distance from one another. Government have outlined guidance on shift working and staggering processes, which recommends only having essential staff on site at one time. You may want to develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick employees and customers. Ensure good hygiene practices using this government checklist and remind staff and diners of the latest public health advice with these posters, leaflets and other materials.


See government guidance on travelling to and from work.


Assign workers to specific areas to reduce job and location rotation and minimise interaction between kitchen staff and other workers. Consider installing screens to protect staff at serving and till points.

Follow government guidance on cleaning food preparation and food service areas.


Implement a rigorous cleaning routine, for surfaces, counters, tills, tables etc as well as between customer use.


Check all your equipment is working efficiently. (HVAC, fire alarm (use the test), consider replacing air filters frequently, check sinks, pipes and fridge/freezers for leaks. Check your lightbulbs and consider switching to LED.

The UK Government and guidance states clearly that it is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food but it is still important to follow government guidance on managing food preparation and food service areas.


The WHO advises that the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is very low. However, you should make sure you are following Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) guidance on good hygiene practices. Also useful for reference is this European Commission report on COVID-19 and food safety.


With almost half the population saying they value food more now that before lockdown, use resources like this one to get started with local and seasonal sourcingSee what’s in season and forge links with local growers to reduce food miles and boost your local economy.

Use social media to find local suppliers, they will probably have an increased presence at the moment as they try to sell direct to consumers. Additionally, lots of local councils have collated information on local suppliers who are still active, check out your local council’s website. Farmer’s shops may be a good option for some restaurants, but not larger businesses.


These supply chain aggregators provide lots of information about sustainable production methods: FarmdropNatooraFoodchain, Pale Green DotFresh Range and Tried and Supplied.

With 93% of consumers saying knowing more about the ethical credentials of your food would influence where they eat out, use the WRI’s behaviour change playbook to ensure your menu encourages diners to choose more sustainable options.

To save money and make the most of the great produce you’re sourcing, complete a regular food inventory and select ingredients that will work in a range of recipes to avoid food waste. Service is likely to fluctuate during the initial opening period. Check your inventory is thorough and consider carrying it our more regularly so you can adapt your menu and supply as needed.


If you’re choosing to wait a little longer to re-open be sure to maintain communication with your customers – if you don’t they’ll think you’re closed for good. Start tempting people with delivery, a cooking channel or quiz? 

With many people still saying they’re worried about going out, shout about the measures you’re taking to ensure their safety.

Fire up your wait staff to be your front of house sustainability ambassadors.

Build on the environmental and social dividends of lockdown and champion your climate and community enhancing initiatives. Make a start by placing your most sustainable dishes front and centre of the menu to make it your bestseller.

Go loud and proud with your SRA membership – let those stars of sustainability shine on your menu, website and social


If you’ve been one of the many operators to delve into delivery for the first time and are looking to continue this income stream then be sure to follow the government’s guidance on allergens and provide information about portion sizes to avoid over ordering and unnecessary food waste. For reference, use the chartered institute of environmental health’s Food Delivery and Takeaway Guidance


Also review your packaging options – consider compostables, for example.

Many restaurants have teamed up with their existing produce suppliers to supply their customers with fresh and wholesome produce.  During the pandemic, 3m people have tried a veg box scheme or ordered food from a local farm for the very first time. Look to the WheatsheafLussmanns and Gladwin Brothers for inspiration.

Demand for mealkits has shot up during the covid-19 pandemic and foodservice businesses with a strong brand/product, could look at producing mealkits as a way of capitalising on demand for their food. Look at Mindful ChefHonest BurgersPatty & Bun, Pizza Pilgrims’s ‘frying pan’ pizzas for inspiration.



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