It felt like we’d been waiting a lifetime, but finally indoor dining came back on the cards in May, and after nearly a year without being able to eat at some of our favourite restaurants it’s safe to say we were excited.
Of course, in this Coronavirus world the course of true love (i.e., eating food someone else has cooked) never did run smooth, and when the doors of restaurants were thrown open on the 17th May we all had to abide by some new rules. While many of us across the UK have already enjoyed outdoor dining throughout 2020, eating within the four walls of an establishment is a whole other kettle of fish.
As well as updated guidelines, there are also existing rules which are still in place, while others are scrapped, so it’s safe to say booking a spot at your favourite restaurant isn’t quite as straightforward as it once was. To bring a little more clarity to the table – if you’ll pardon the pun – we’ve put together our fool proof guide on indoor dining during the coronavirus pandemic, which we hope helps you feel confident to book a table and enjoy a catch up with friends or family over some delicious food.
These guidelines are for England only, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having variations on the below.
When did restaurants reopen indoors in England?
Restaurants in England reopened indoors on Monday 17 May.
How do you check in at a restaurant?
Restaurants require every person dining – not just one person from each group as was previously essential – to check in. You will have to download the NHS track and trace app. On the home screen there’s an option to ‘check in’ at a venue, and when you arrive at the restaurant, bar, cafe or pub they should have a QR code ready for you to scan with your phone’s camera after you’ve hit the button. All very quick and easy, so just remember to have the app already downloaded before you arrive.
How many people can book a table together at restaurants?
Currently six people will be allowed to meet at an indoor restaurant, café or bar, or any number of people from up to a maximum of two households. So if you are two families of five - for instane - you could still book one table.
Are you allowed to drink alcohol inside at restaurants now?
Yes, alcohol can be enjoyed with any meal indoors in England, but it has to be served at your table. Not queuing at a bar seems like a bit of an upgrade to us.
Do you have to have a vaccine passport to eat at a restaurant?
No, there are currently no rules that say you have to have proof of a vaccination to eat at a restaurant in the UK.
Is there still a 10pm curfew on indoor dining?
No, the controversial 10pm curfew on restaurants, pubs and bars has been scrapped – you’re now free to enjoy your table until you’re turfed out at closing time (or when the next booking turns up).
Do you have to prove you’re from the same household to book a table together?
Restaurant staff are being asked to ensure diners stick to the rules, but there is no official line on checking who lives with who. As always, it’s best to stick to the rules to keep everyone happy and safe, not least your stressed out server who now has lots of extra elements to their job.
Do you have to have a booking at a restaurant during Coronavirus?
No, some restaurants are still accepting walk-in tables and you aren't required by law to have a booking.
What safety measures are in place for eating indoors?
This is at each restaurant’s desecration. In most places there will be hand sanitiser available to guests, fewer tables should be in place to allow for social distancing, and staff will be wearing masks until restrictions are scrapped. Many places have also installed screens and booths to break up tables a bit. It is thought that the better ventilation there is in restaurants the less likely it is for Covid to spread. If you’re worried about eating indoors look for somewhere with plenty of windows open or specialist ventilation systems.
Is it safe to eat inside at the moment?
The Government’s guidelines suggest they think that it is okay to eat inside at restaurants now. Lots of restauranteurs have gone to great lengths to keep staff and diners happy and safe, so if you’re worried you could call your local restaurant to check what changes have been made.
When will restaurant restrictions ease?
In line with the overall easing of restrictions, if everything goes to plan, on 19 July 2021 all Covid-related rules at restaurants should be scrapped. This includes staff and customes not having to wear masks anymore.
Is it safe to eat at a restaurant during the Coronavirus pandemic? Your questions, answered