Distance in bars

Customers are going to be out of practice when they take their first steps back into hospitality, says guest writer Bradley Gough, who offers some tips on how they might navigate their nights out.

As we start to look forward to sunny days spent in beer gardens and nights out with our friends, it is important customers are conscious of how alien the first few trips out might feel. The measures we saw during the tier system over the summer felt super awkward and at times impolite, but everyone is in the same boat, figuring out pandemic protocols as they go.

Some people will be rearing for a night on the town, whilst others will be more cautious. This social etiquette guide is a reminder to customers as the world starts opening up again.

1.     Distance

Physical distancing is likely to stick around for some time and while most people will be used to it, it is easy to forget when out and about enjoying quality time with family and friends. As the public head back into venues, be considerate of any distancing guides that have been put in place, whether it’s capacity restrictions, marked areas to form a queue in, sit down at or for directing the flow of traffic.

2.     Cover your mouth

Covering a cough or sneeze is common practice, but when living in a post-lockdown society the public has new etiquette to consider. When we inevitably get back inside bars, singing, or shouting in the direction of others has to be considered.

3.     Be kind

A lot of people working in the hospitality sector have been away from their job a lot over the last year, so they might be a little out of practice.  Be more patient than usual.

4.     Greetings

Everyone is desperate for that first hug with a family member or a high five with a friend, but the etiquette on greetings has obviously shifted. Some are predicting that the traditional ritual of a clink of glasses, over dinnertime with people outside of our household, will become popular again post-pandemic. However, for the foreseeable small party-goers and pub drinkers will have to settle for cheery waves, mini dances and elbow bumps.

5.     Protection

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While it’s not the usual night out protection most people have in mind, the regular use of hand sanitiser is likely to stick around long after the pandemic, so it will always be sensible to have some on you. The same can be said for mask-wearing, which is likely to stick around for those not seated and moving through venues. The biggest complaints around masks are not being able to see facial cues and voices becoming muffled, so get used to using eyes to portray a smile and hand gestures to compensate for facial expressions.

6.     Be prepared

Sharing pretty much anything on a night out is a thing of the past, so it is best to be prepared. Pack the essentials, because sharing a lip balm in the loos or grabbing a mate’s gum will be pretty socially unacceptable. Bring plenty of layers so coats don’t have to be shared if it’s cold, or when people are sneaking out to a smoking area.

7.     Be understanding

When making plans in a post-lockdown climate it might be tricky to fully firm plans up, especially with friends or family members that have been shielding. It is so important that each party feels as comfortable and safe as possible. Certain demographics are known to be at a higher risk of Covid and there is often no way of telling this unless they disclose it. Be understanding and accepting of people who may hesitate to join you in activities that may put their health at risk.

8.     Booking and showing up

When the day finally does come, and restaurants and bars reopen, they will be trying to gauge how busy they will be and how much stock they will need. A great way to alleviate the pressure on staff and avoid long waits is to tell a venue the plan way in advance. Use online booking systems and keep to your booking – if you can’t make it, let the venue know.

Bradley Gough is the founder of Groubook, an app to help book, organise and arrange nights out.