COVID-19: Converting Your Restaurant to a Takeaway Kitchen

June 5, 2020
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At the time I first wrote this article, the UK was getting a little closer to the lifting of restrictions and a return to something that looked more familiar, if not completely ‘normal’. Now, as we approach a second lockdown, many hospitality business owners are looking at how operating as a takeaway business could work for their restaurant, cafe, and pub. This article reflects the most recent government guidance, as of 5th November 2020.

Whilst we all want to stay safe and protect staff and customers alike, there was potential that opening up the dining rooms to socially distant customers and running at reduced capacity could be more damaging than if they were to stay closed. This led to many establishments looking to adapt their offering to provide takeaway meals, or operate as a dark kitchen

What Do We Know About the Transmission of COVID-19?

In March, Public Health England announced that it is ‘very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food… it is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging’. This is good news to caterers as it means food is not thought to be a vehicle of transmission. However, we do know that coronavirus is a respiratory illness that can be passed between humans, via particles in the air, and that the virus can survive on contaminated surfaces for a period of three days. 

With this in mind, increased cleaning and disinfection routines are essential throughout the customer journey to ensure their safety and your staff’s safety. Equally important is making sure all staff receive training in any new procedures you implement, and that they clearly understand what to do if they feel unwell. 

Waiter disinfects table top in cafe

Is Takeaway the Answer?

One such workaround to keeping your business running as we enter a second lockdown is to open up your kitchens for delivery and takeaway orders. This is something we’ve seen a huge upsurge of, as highstreet kitchens and independents alike move to meeting the demand for takeaways from their loyal customers. 

Back in June, we surveyed 2000 people who said they didn’t see the nationwide lockdown as a reason to stop ordering takeaways, or even to stop eating restaurant food, albeit from within their homes. As darker nights and cold winter weather draws in, these ‘takeaway treats’ are likely to continue to play a huge part in people’s everyday lives.

Furthermore, a quarter of respondents to our survey said they would like to see healthy options available to order. When asked what would encourage them to order from their local cafe, pub or restaurant offering delivery, 42% said high food hygiene standards and the ability to pay online were the most important criteria, with contactless delivery coming in third at 28%. 

Some businesses have decided that takeaway and delivery could be the answer they need to stay afloat, or even to prosper. As is the case with Coqfighting, who committed to opening up a dark kitchen every week at the start of the pandemic. Not only is this approach allowing them to launch new products to an eager market, it is also keeping them and their teams busy. Other restaurants are using the departure from normal to be creative, get back to their roots or to try something new.

For example, Noma, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world, traded as a wine and burger bar. Similarly, Alinea in Chicago, holder of three Michelin stars, is running a constantly sold-out menu for customers to pick up and reheat at home. If the finest fine dining restaurants in the world can react and pivot to a new takeaway concept, anyone can. 

The latest government restrictions sees the closure of hospitality venues such as restaurants, pubs and bars. In England, such venues are permitted to offer a takeaway and delivery service, including alcohol if the alcohol is consumed offsite and has met certain purchasing requirements. Alcohol can be sold via ‘click and collect’ if a customer pre-orders through a website, phone call, text or post. The customer must collect it from the venue without entering the venue. Alcohol sales are also permitted for delivery, and via a drive through, where the order is passed to the customer without them leaving the car.

If you do decide to run your business as a food takeaway or delivery service, then there are some practical steps you can take to ensure the safety of your food, your staff and your customers. 

Chef wearing blue gloves makes pizza

Giving your business a complete overhaul to be able to provide a takeaway or delivery service is not an easy task. Each business is unique in its operations, design, and in what it is offering, and so each one will face different challenges. We hope the guidance in our course will be a starting point for you to operate safely as a takeaway and delivery service. If you have any concerns the best places you can go for specific advice are your local council and EHOs.

To book or enquire about our courses, visit our website or call 0333 006 7000 to talk to our friendly sales advisors.

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