Hospitality “not viable” to reopen with two-metre distancing – Selley

Many hospitality outlets will find it’s “not viable” to re-open if two-metre social distancing measures stay in place, according to Andrew Selley.

Using figures circulated by UK Hospitality, the Bidfood Chief Executive pointed out there will be a 40% difference in the number of outlets returning to business if measures are reduced to one metre rather than two, as is being adhered to in other nations.

And while Selley – who was talking as part of FWD’s Bringing Foodservice Back debate – admits safety is the most important thing, the benefit for hospitality businesses and foodservice wholesalers is clear.

“The feedback from hospitality is that they reckon it’s a 40% difference in terms of the number of outlets that would be able to open meaningfully,” said Selley.

“Because we are blessed with the UK climate, just opening for outdoor eating is great but it’s not really going to make a massive difference in terms of sales.

“According to UK Hospitality, 40% of outlets will deem it viable to open [if social-distancing measures are reduced to one metre]. It [two-metre distancing] is just not viable when they look at the number of people they’d have to have in the serving area and also the consideration of distancing in the kitchen area as well, which is a major limitation for most customers.

“At the end of the day, we all want it to be done safely but hopefully we’ll see that come down.”

As part of the discussion, Selley also admitted that the first couple of months after hospitality outlets reopen next month would require an element of wait and see.

With consumer confidence and demand likely to impact how successful re-openings are, Selley says wholesalers will need to adapt to make sure they get their offerings right.

“The type of food our customers are offering their customers is going to change, the ways they’re going to be able to prepare it and store it will change,” Selley explained.

“The type of containers, cutlery, condiments and everything else they’ll use to accompany that will change and we need to try to understand what that will look like.

“There will probably be a shift towards products with longer shelf lives. If they have the option, they might move look to take frozen product where they took fresh or chilled before because they won’t know what their demand is going to look like initially. Food to go, takeaway packaging and all of that stuff is going to be in higher demand.

“From a wholesale perspective in the middle, we’re stuck trying to guess what customers are going to buy from us and what we’re going to want from the suppliers.

“We’re as unsure as our customers are. So the ones will reopen will be offering a limited menu and surely from an ease of preparation perspective, duty of wastage and just serve for a month or two to see how it goes in terms of consumer demand.”

Listen back to the full FWD discussion on Bringing Foodservice Back only on the Wholesale News website.

Andrew Selley Bidfood coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice FWD hospitality