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14 October 2020

Key regulatory changes for businesses in the Food & Beverage sector

Following the Government’s announcement yesterday, some significant changes on rules and regulations may affect food & beverage operators. As COVID-19 cases are rising, separate rules are being implemented across the rest of the UK.

To keep you updated with the latest information please see below the summary we collected from the announcement as they affect the food & beverage industry:

From today, the new three-tier system of lockdowns will come into force in England.

The country will be divided into three local COVID “alert levels”: medium, high and very high.

The level that any area is given will be based on the local infection rates in that area and each area’s level will be reviewed every four weeks.

Areas on the “medium” level will face the restrictions that we have become used to during the past few weeks, including:

  • The rule of six i.e. people may not gather indoors or outdoors in a group of larger than six (save for some exemptions such as weddings and funerals);
  • A 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants.

Areas on the “high” level will see further restrictions in place, including:

  • No socialising with people from other households indoors (i.e. if you go to a hospitality venue and want to sit indoors, you may only go with people that you live with).
  • Normal rule of six applies for groups sitting outdoors (i.e. you can be with people from other households but the group must not be larger than six).


Areas on the “very high” level will see the toughest measures put in place, including:

  • No socialising with people from other households indoors or outdoors;
  • Bars and pubs will close, unless they can operate as restaurants;
  • Alcohol could be served in a pub or bar that is operating as a restaurant, but only if it is being served as part of a meal.

The list of areas is likely to change so please refer to the government website forthe latest information: Click here.

Conclusion

  • The stop-start nature of the system will make it incredibly difficult for
    businesses to plan ahead and make purchases from their suppliers.
    Businesses in areas at risk of being moved from ‘high’ to ‘very high’ will need to think carefully about how much stock to order and perhaps operate on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis. It may also be prudent for businesses to re-negotiate contracts with suppliers now to ensure they are suitably protected.
  • This new system does not seem to deal with one of the key criticisms of the 10pm curfew on hospitality venues, which is that at 10pm in any area that has a high concentration of restaurants, bars and pubs, there have been large gatherings on the streets of people leaving these venues. This in turn leads to large, concentrated crowds on public transport and an increased likelihood of people congregating in homes in groups larger than 6. Staggered opening and closing times may need to be considered.
  • Businesses will also need to use their own initiatives and come up with ideas and solutions to maintain business. Some suggestions include:
    • implementing their own version of the eat out to help out scheme or other discount offers on less busy days to encourage customers to visit;
    • using outdoor space more effectively and adapting outdoor areas to be more customer friendly in the winter months – this will be particularly important for businesses in areas on the “high” level where groups that include customers from different households can only be outside; and
    • if not already done, putting in place an effective online delivery or click and collect system to accommodate customers who wish to purchase from the business but do not want to eat or drink on site.

It remains to be seen what impact these regulations will have, but the industry clearly needs more help. For example, there are now nearly 25,000 fewer licensed premises open in the UK than there were before the national lockdown. This is a stark figure and it would suggest that more steps need to be taken in order to slow down and stop the damage being done to the industry. .

Further updates

Please keep visiting our COVID-19 hub for further updates. The rules and regulations are ever-changing, particularly where local outbreaks are likely to become more prevalent, and it is critical that you are up to date with the latest changes.

The changing regulations will affect businesses in different ways, and you need advice that takes account of these changes within the context of your unique business operation.

If you do have any concerns about the changes, and how they will impact your business, please contact Freddie Law.

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