As the potential realities of what we all hope will be a short term phase post lockdown sink in, there has been much conversation and speculation over how social distancing guidelines can be implemented in hospitality venues.  Required dimensions for social distancing and the potential use of screens are hot topics alongside the effects on revenue and atmosphere.

Whilst there is a desire from many customers to be allowed to return to their favourite venues, this will undoubtedly be accompanied by nervousness over how safe it is to do so, and concern that post-lockdown bars and restaurants will  lack atmosphere or appeal. Operators will be keen to follow guidance issued on social distancing measures and considering how this impacts on operations as well as their customers, staff and suppliers.

In order to draw people back into hospitality venues, it’s vital that new operational procedures are clearly communicated. Alongside this, some creativity will be needed to get the look and feel of the space just right. To ensure that the customer has a great experience, functionality needs to seamlessly blend with the design.

“As designers, we see this as an opportunity to demonstrate our creativity and innovation and to curate some amazing spaces that address both short and long term aims. If, as appears likely, some element of screening is required, there are a number of ways to deliver this that can both inspire and reassure guests.

Booths are always popular places to sit and could be a perfect solution to seat groups while complying with social distancing requirements – potentially with functional and decorative perimeter screens. Semi-private and private dining space will also be popular and can be formed with screens comprising of modular panels, allowing the operator to adapt the screening to suit different spaces and party sizes while also have the benefit of easy storage and movement. We predict a rise in the use of fabric fro ranges which are hardwearing, easy to clean and have antibacterial properties.

“Our design for The Eaton Oak included circular free-standing booths made in sections so that staff can pick up and move to a different location if required and asap to use just one or all sections. The rear is upholstered so if located facing into the bar, the whole structure looks great.”

It seems likely that outdoor spaces will be those cleared for use first. Repurposing more external spaces makes good business sense – gardens, car parks and even compounds can be used and become destinations in their own right.

We’re excited by the potential for external covered seating zones, bookable for small groups. These could be pods, pergolas, booths or screens to elevate the experience and minimise customer traffic flow. Each could include its own heating, lighting, sound and visual systems with direct communications to the bar to place orders. Smart use of materials, finishes, fabrics and planting can soften the space and ensure that these zones remind on brand and enhance the customer experience.