How to reconfigure hospitality premises for social distancing
After weeks of total lockdown – with some exceptions for key workers and vulnerable residents – the hospitality sector is starting to open back up as the Coronavirus curve enters a steadier phase.
The COVID-19 pandemic creates a contradictory environment for the sector. Premises normally designed to bring people together must now do more to keep them apart. This requires some careful planning.
In and out
Entry and exit are a major challenge for all kinds of premises. Restaurants and bars can introduce staggered arrival times, but if possible, it’s even better to have a designated ‘in’ door and a separate exit door.
This extends to indoor areas too. Hotel reception desks should have a clear, socially distant queueing area, which guests do not need to walk past when leaving the front desk.
Floor markings can help to keep people apart, while recognising that those from the same household or ‘support bubble’ can be much closer to one another.
Fixed yet flexible
Another challenge is making sure one-way markings, social distancing measures and physical barriers are fixed enough that guests cannot easily ignore them, yet can be moved easily if guidelines change.
For example, the ‘one metre plus’ rule allows individuals to come closer together in areas where two metres of distance is not feasible.
Hospitality establishments must currently cater for both rules at once – two metres where possible, and one metre plus where appropriate.
With the exception of hotel bedrooms, most customer spaces in hospitality establishments are communal – such as bars, pubs, restaurants, hotel dining rooms, reception areas and so on.
Careful reconfiguring and semi-permanent refurbishments can adjust these areas to become COVID-secure zones, for example by using booths to separate groups of diners, and solid barriers to remove the risk of infection in shared spaces.
Removing some tables from dining rooms, as well as some seating in reception and other communal areas, can also help to increase the minimum distance between guests as they move around your premises.
Trust and respect
It’s difficult to police all parts of your premises at all times, but you can take steps to protect your customers, while trusting them to take some of the responsibility upon themselves.
For example, you can provide safe queueing areas, request that customers wear masks if necessary, in communal spaces, and provide things like alcohol hand gel on arrival.
You could even put together a complimentary COVID-safety pack for new arrivals, with a disposable mask per person and a pocket-sized hand gel, which could prove extremely welcome to travellers.
The hospitality sector has always found ways to make customers feel welcome, and to provide added value during their visit – so with some simple adjustments, you can continue to do just that as we move through the rest of this year and beyond.