The Return of Indoor Dining – book your table now!

18 May 2021 - Elizabeth O'Hanlon

One of the most welcome measures as we come out of lockdown is the reopening of indoor spaces in pubs, bars and restaurants.

Of course for those hardy folk willing to sit outside, some venues have been offering hospitality since 12 April.  Those locations that have had the space to be able to provide an outside offering have been busy, especially at weekends, with people often having to book several weeks in advance to secure a table. These businesses have often had to spend a great deal on putting safety measures in place: not just the obligatory face masks and hand sanitiser stations but also investing in upgrading outdoor spaces with new chairs and tables, outdoor heaters, lighting and marquees or gazeboes to protect their consumers from the British weather. As an aside, it has not gone unnoticed that this time last year, when we were unable to go anywhere other than our own gardens, we were basking in the type of weather usually only seen in the Mediterranean, whilst this year we have been battling rain and wind while trying to drink a pint in a pub garden, dressed for the North Pole.

The good news is that there will be a small recompense to hospitality business owners by way of tax allowances on the investment made, which can reduce a future tax bill, although this may not be a great help to those businesses that have had to spend their hard cash preparing to reopen, having had little or no income for several months.

But has this investment been wasted? Will all the blankets and outdoor heaters get put into storage when we can all get back to eating inside? I’m not sure that they will, certainly for the next twelve months. I suspect that many people have actually started to enjoy sitting outside, where the lighting and outdoor heating can often create a relaxing ambiance whilst providing protection from the elements.

And while staycations are once again the norm this summer, this style of outdoor relaxation may well help to bring a bit of the Med to our shores and even make us feel like we might be heading to the beach in the morning.

Adding extra dining space outdoors can also provide businesses with a means to increase capacity, if required, which in turn can help them to make a start on clawing back some of the lost income from the months of closure.

The changing Covid-19 regulations for the hospitality industry have meant many businesses have had to review their business models. Many have introduced online ordering and take-aways during the lockdowns. More recently, since outdoor hospitality has been permitted, pubs and restaurants may have had to adjust their resources and operations to ensure that they can cope with additional tables.

Of course, as restrictions continue to lift it is hoped that the venues that have not been able to trade will now be able to open their doors once again and start competing for business. But hopefully the move by people towards spending more time outdoors generally over the last twelve months means that the investments by hospitality businesses in their outside spaces will only enhance their offering, and will continue to be a sound investment for many years to come.

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