By now, all those in the UK dining/catering sector should know how hard this virus can hit. We’d like to drop the careful reminder of the past on our readers, when back in 2020 the restaurant industry nose-dived. To help stop this happening a second time, we must put government guidelines into immediate effect. If you run a dining establishment, you must adjust your systems to protect staff and customers from the new variant of Coronavirus.
Let’s talk about Omicron, Covid-19, and protecting ourselves from the worst outcome.
What’s the Omicron Variant?
Let’s briefly cover what the variant is before we move on. The Omicron variant is a variation on the Delta version. It was first picked up in South Africa on the 24th November 2021, but since then, WHO have reported traces found there on the 9th of November.
Omicron is dangerous because it is spreading much faster than the previous versions of Covid-19. It is also mutating faster, expressing evolution at a rate that has scientists worried. There is concern already about mutations caused by Omicron and it is only just beginning. They have advised countries up their surveillance, report cases on the global database, and enhance their sequencing efforts.
How Much Does Covid-19/Omicron Effect the UK Hospitality Sector?
Back in 2020, an estimated 10,000 restaurants closed their doors permanently, right here in the UK. In America, that startling figure rose to 110,000 restaurants and eateries, with Bloomberg suggesting the industry was in freefall.
The new Omicron variant of Covid is threatening us with a repeat performance. In fact, we have already endured our first outbreak at a KFC in Essex. Officials are trying to trace the customers who brought the variant to Brentwood High Street, especially since they have detected Omicron in a nearby school. The variant has also been found in Nottingham, so far.
Other European countries have taken the threat seriously enough to impose curfews and return to the early 2020 days of imposing maximum guest limits and social distancing measures. An 11pm curfew is to take place in restaurants, with a maximum of 6 people allowed per table. Japan, Morocco, Israel, and other countries have all closed their borders in preparation. Here in the UK, travel restrictions are back in place and the government are clamping down once more.
A Return to Restaurant Social Distancing
If we follow Belgium’s example, we can already see cracks appearing. They are closing all pubs, bars, and other venues which cannot guarantee social distancing measures are in place for the next four weeks at least. It’s likely that the UK government will roll out similar plans.
Boris Johnson has confirmed that new measures are in place. He says the government requires new UK arrivals to take the 2 day PCR test and that face masks are now compulsory in shops and restaurants in England and Wales. Scotland never ceased the mask wearing policies.
NHS test and trace will remain in place in restaurants and diners. This will help identify those who have encountered the variant. The government asks these people to isolate until contacted by the NHS. You should ensure your business participates in the Test and Trace scheme.
The government has not instructed to reimplement the 2 metre social distancing rule. However, they have advised that we take all precautions possible to avoid spreading the virus. This includes providing adequate ventilation and allowing air to flow throughout the workplace. It includes sufficient cleaning, meaning that seats, tables, chairs, and anything else a customer touches should be cleaned between uses. Finally, they remind us to maintain good hand hygiene, something that catering staff do anyway.
The government has advised of extra measures you can take beyond this. They tell us to talk to our staff about risks, engage workplace testing, encourage the use of face masks, and to minimise the amount of interaction between staff and the public.
The Pandemic Drove Growth in Digital Payments
One of the best ways that we can do all the above, is using contactless payments systems. POS and contactless systems have experienced a boom during the pandemic. If you don’t have to touch things, you minimise the risk of transmission and consumers know this.
The modern consumer wants a convenient way to pay that’s fast, effective, and contactless. A shocking 58% of Baby Boomers are now turning to digital payments, with 30% of consumers now using digital payments and mobile wallets.
How Contactless Payment Solutions will help Hospitality Stay Open During Omicron
The statistics suggest that contactless payment is the way forward for all sectors. Contactless payment company Kayana can outfit your restaurant, diner, or café, with the ability to accept digital transactions without the need to exchange money.
The benefits of the Kayana contactless payment system are massive. They offer no cash exchange or data phone usage, as these can harbour the virus. They protect employees from handling cash and from touching tickets, which can also harbour germs and bacteria. Customers place their order through the app, consumers can pay using a QR code, and the machine prints the ticket straight into the kitchen, where the chefs can create the food without any outside influences.
This payment system goes further than just contactless. Diners can order before they arrive, reducing your table turnover times. There will be no queues because service moves faster. The client could arrive for lunch with their drinks and food already on the table waiting for them. It has never been simpler to eliminate unnecessary service times and customer-waiting staff exposure.
The Future is Contactless
No matter which way you look at it, this way of working is beneficial to the restaurant industry. Contactless payment both helps us navigate the deadly waters of Omicron and helps us maintain social distancing. The future of the restaurant industry involves an update to the digital technologies we use at the point of service. All we must do now is work towards a digitally enhanced future in the hospitality sector.
By Katriona MacMillan