The hospitality industry has welcomed the publication of new guidelines on how it can reopen safely as coronavirus restrictions begin to lift, but some in the restaurant sector are seeking additional clarity on how to implement the required changes.
The Government’s roadmap for reopening society following the coronavirus lockdown currently allows for restaurants, cafes, hotels, hostels, caravan parks and other hospitality businesses to reopen on June 29th, albeit with measures in place to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
On Tuesday, Fáilte Ireland published a "living" document which outlines measures restaurants, hotels, adventure tourism operators and caravan parks will have to implement in order to prevent this spread as the country reopens.
Some of the guidelines include restaurateurs being asked to tell customers verbally what is on the menu, avoiding share plates, group tour sizes being reduced, and buffet-style services being avoided.
Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, president of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), said the guidelines should provide important reassurance for people who want to holiday in Ireland this summer.
“The health and safety of our teams and guests will always be the main priority. While they have been closed for business since March, hotels and guesthouses across the country have already started to adapt their services and facilities in anticipation of reopening under Covid-19 guidelines,” Ms Fitzgerald Kane said.
“Ireland’s hotels have always had a well-earned reputation globally for their high service standards and hoteliers will be applying that same commitment to the implementation of these new standards.”
Brendan Kenny, chief executive of Ireland's Association for Adventure Tourism, said he and his members are "absolutely delighted" the guidelines have been published.
“From speaking with my members, every response has been really positive,” Mr Kenny said. “The guidelines are really comprehensive, but they’re also business-friendly. We think this is a really positive step towards reopening businesses.”
Con Quill, chief executive of the Irish Camping and Caravan Council, said the sector welcomed the guidelines, because being able to reopen for July and August is a “lifesaver” for the industry.
“Overall, people are glad we have clear guidelines, but there will be some challenges,” Mr Quill said. “Like everyone in the hospitality sector, we would like to see the [social distancing requirement to maintain a] 2m distance change, and communal areas will be pinchpoints for our members. Outdoor elements is much safer than indoors so it’s not a big issue for us.”
Meanwhile, Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, has called for clarity on the measures, particularly on the distance customers will be required to maintain from each other.
The new recommendations are predicated on the current physical distancing guidance of 2m, but public health officials are examining potentially reducing this to 1m for the hospitality industry.
Businesses are going to have to adapt, and there will be reduced menus because there will be fewer staff in the kitchen as a result of physical distancing guidelines, Mr Cummins told Today with Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio 1.
“The authorities will have to work with us. We want to get businesses open, we want to see the 120,000 people who work in the [restaurant] sector back at work,” he added.
Mr Cummins pointed out that there were still 19 days to go before reopening would commence. “We want to make sure that we bring customers back to a safe environment. At the end of the day consumers will vote with their feet.”
Neil McDonnell, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme), said that unless the economy is opened up in a planned fashion “there will not be an economy to go back to”.