No buffets, mini-bars or ‘close’ dancing under post-lockdown measures

Restaurants Association says 90% of restaurants cannot reopen with 2m distancing

Guests on the dance floor at weddings will be told to keep 2 metres apart under new post Covid-19 lockdown rules which will also see the end of mini-bars and self-service buffets in hotels.

Guests in spas should also be offered express “stress management” treatments instead of therapies that involve touch, while those using hotel pools may be asked to book time slots in advance.

For golfers, the space between tee times will be increased to 15-minute intervals. The guidelines also state that caddie service offered to guests must be suspended unless physical distancing can be adhered to.

Restaurateurs are being asked to verbally tell customers what is on the menu while there will be no more sharing plates.


Embellishments on drinks such as decorative cocktail umbrellas will have to be “minimised.” Tableside cooking should also be suspended if social distancing guidelines cannot be maintained.

For hotel weddings, canapés will have to be served individually and there will no more shared bowls of vegetables, gravy while condiments such as salt and pepper will be on request.

The new guidelines for hotels, restaurants, self-catering and caravan parks are being finalised by Fáilte Ireland, Government officials and industry bodies.

Below are the key changes for hotel weddings, spas, golf and restaurants. Further guidance for pubs intending to operate as restaurants is set to be published in the coming days.

The new recommendations are predicated on the current physical distancing guidance of 2 metres but public health officials are examining potentially reducing this to 1metre for the hospitality industry.

The plans have been criticised by those in the food and beverage sector with the chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Adrian Cummins saying under the current two metre guidelines around 90 per cent of restaurants will not be able to open on June 29th. If that was reduced to one metre Mr Cummins said that would enable 80 per cent of restaurants to open.

On Monday Minister for Health Simon Harris said the National Public Health Emergency Team was re-examining the appropriateness of the two metre social distancing requirement for the hospitality sector.


Guests will be asked to enter the property through doors that are automated or manually operated by an employee where possible. “Reception employees should encourage just one representative of each arriving group to approach the check-in desk while the others adhere to physical distancing measures.”

If guests use bell service, “ask them to place their luggage on the ground. The bell service can then commence, after which the bell cart can be cleaned and disinfected.”

The guidelines say that it will be the responsibility of supervisors and managers to ensure that guests do not congregate in groups.

The guidelines add that buffets should be avoided.

“Avoid buffet-style service, where possible. If it is required, maintain physical distancing by avoiding queuing systems and staggering guests’ access to the buffet. Employees must plate up and serve food.”

Guidelines on rooms say extra pillows and blankets will be provided only if requested by a guest. Food delivered to the room should be set on a tray or trolley in the hallway and the “guest can then retrieve their own food and drinks.”

Mini-bars will be replaced by room service. They “must have all loose product removed and the bar then be locked. Items can be made available upon request from room service.”

After a guest has left, the guest linen must be removed in a tied bag. “When linen is removed from a bed and laundered, employees must wear the relevant protective items eg gloves and apron, when separating the linen.”

Pens will be removed or replaced after each guest checks out.

In bars and function rooms, the amount of seating and stools must be reduced and the capacity of outside smoking areas must be reviewed. Open bar snacks or finger food will be served to individual guests and not shared by a table. Tableside cooking “must be suspended if physical distancing cannot be adhered to.”

Jugs will no longer be available on counters according to the guidelines as those using the counter as a dining facility may not be from the same household.

Hotel pools

Viewing chairs and seating must be removed completely. The pool area must be pressure washed, cleaned and disinfected each night, the guidelines state. “A designated employee must ensure the maximum pool capacity is not exceeded. Alternatively, guests can book their preferred pool time.”

Hotel golf

Space between tee times will also be increased to 15-minute intervals. Only one player can travel in a cart unless accompanied by people who are part of the same household. The guidelines also state that guest caddie service offered to guests must be suspended unless physical distancing can be adhered to. Individual scorecards and pencil sets should also be made be available to players.

Hotel spa

Instead of close contact treatments the guidelines suggest “alternative express treatments” such as “stress management and options that do not involve touch”. Ultraviolet treatment boxes must be installed to ensure that all grooming equipment has been properly sterilised. Where physical distancing cannot be reasonably practised, therapists must be “provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and safeguards such as screens, training and instruction. Above all, it must be emphasised that gloves are no substitute for good handwashing.”

Hotel weddings

Even the dance floor will be subjected to social distancing under the guidelines. They also recommend a private room for the drinks reception. Canapés must be in individual portions. During the meal, salt and pepper shakers, butter dishes will be available only on request. There will also be “no family-style service of food, ie no shared vegetable and gravy dishes.” Wedding afters “must be served directly to each guest fully plated.” Social distancing will have to be maintained on the dance floor. There will be signage on tables and dance floors which must ask guests to respect physical distancing guidelines. Staff will be required to monitor and manage distancing.


Where food is served buffet-style, all items for guest use must be “individually wrapped” or be a single serve item. “Common tongs or ladles must not be used and neither must common distribution containers from which guests help themselves.”

Restaurants are advised to encourage bookings and give specific time slots for diners.

When a group arrives at a restaurant to queue, only one member should be asked do so, the document states. “The others must adhere to physical distancing until the group can be seated.”

“The amount of seating and stools must be reduced and guests must order from their seat wherever possible to reduce queues.”

Straws must be individually wrapped and the “embellishment” or decoration of glasses like cocktail umbrellas should be minimised.

Fresh glasses will be used for every new drink and when pouring drinks employees must handle glasses by the stem or base.

Verbal menus are also being encouraged. The guidelines state that menus must be single use or made of a material that can easily be cleaned. “Electronic menus, phone apps and menu boards are an alternative option. It may be possible to verbally recommend food and drinks to guests. If so, this should be done.”

Sharing plates must be served in individual portions from the kitchen. Self-service buffet and hotplates will have to be “shielded from guests” and only employees must plate up food.

Buffet service “must only be provided where physical distancing and other public health advice can be followed. Maintain physical distancing by staggering service and placing 2metre markings on the floor to highlight distance if queuing is unavoidable.” But no self-serve food will be available.

Bill tip trays, pens and all other reusable guest contact items “must be cleaned and disinfected after each use or used just once and disposed of.”

Every restaurant should have “at least one lead worker representative charged with ensuring that Covid-19 measures are strictly adhered to in their workplace,” the documents state.

Restaurants are being urged to implement phased shifts, schedule small teams and keep the same team combinations where possible to limit employee interaction. “This will assist should contact tracing be required.”

Restaurant tables, seating and couches in public areas and other physical layouts will have to be arranged to ensure appropriate social distancing is adhered to. Employees will also be reminded to “stay at least 2metre away from guests and other employees whenever possible.”

The guideline state that if restaurants cannot ensure that employees stay the recommended distance apart at all times “alternative protective measures must be put in place. For example, install physical barriers such as clear plastic sneeze guards between employees.”

Hand sanitiser dispensers, touchless whenever possible, must be placed at all restaurant entrances, at employee entrances and at specific points within the public areas of the restaurant. All hand sanitisers must have a minimum alcohol content of 60 per cent.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times