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Government coronavirus guidelines for restaurants, cafes and pubs preparing to reopen

6-minute read

Jessie Day

18 June 2020

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance for preparing restaurants and food businesses (such as pubs, bars and cafes) for reopening during coronavirus. Are you up-to-date on the requirements and your responsibilities? This checklist guide will point you in the right direction.

From checking with your local authority to cleaning, making adjustments and restocking, here are the steps you need to take when preparing to reopen your restaurant, cafe, bar or pub.

Which businesses are covered by the guidance?

The government’s latest guidance applies to food preparation or service settings where food and drink is sold for consumption. It includes:

  • restaurants
  • pubs
  • bars
  • beer gardens
  • food to go
  • cafes
  • social clubs (and similar) running as bars and restaurants
  • mobile and contact catering

It also takes into account entertainment you may host in your pub or restaurant.

Review your food safety management system

This is one of the first things you’ll need to do when preparing to reopen your restaurant, bar, pub or food business. It’ll help you identify risks, especially anything related to coronavirus transmission, or being shut for a long period. You should record your review in your Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan – read up on this in our restaurant health and safety guide – or your Safer food, better business pack (if you’re in Northern Ireland, this is your Safe catering guide).

Your review will need to account for any coronavirus-related changes in your business activities. For example, you might be rethinking production, roles and responsibilities, staffing, customer interactions and other measures.

Use the government’s checklist PDF to keep track of your preparations and measures, and revisit when necessary.

Preparing to reopen your restaurant

You’ll need to get in contact with your local authority before reopening, as well as your waste disposal services. Here are the key government-advised steps.

Check with your local authority

If you’re planning to restart your operations, you’ll need to notify your local authority. You’ll also need to tell them about any changes to your business activities, for example if you’re introducing a new delivery service.

Update your food safety management system (FSMS)

You’ve reviewed your FSMS for risks, so this step is about updating it with details of any new procedures as a result of Covid-19, being shut for a long period, or other risk factors. You might need to include:

  • food safety risks, following your procedure changes
  • new procedures for takeaway or delivery services (for example, allergen management)
  • cross-contamination risks
  • packaging arrangements (this should be food grade, and fit for purpose)
  • packaging hygiene (for example, if it’s been in storage for a long time, is it safe to use?)
  • staff checks (are your employees fit for work and wearing clean work clothes?)
  • fitness for work procedures (to account for coronavirus risks, it might be helpful to speak to your employees by phone before they come back, to decide if they’re fit to work)
  • reviews of any PPE stock, if needed
  • new laundry procedures for any PPE
  • communication and training plans for your employees, including anyone new to the business

Check your waste arrangements

You’ll need to check that rubbish and waste will be cleared away by your usual registered waste services, ensuring there won’t be any on-site build-up.

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Site checks

This part of your restaurant, pub or cafe reopening covers food preparation areas, pest activity (important if you’ve had to close for a long period), as well as hand washing and cleaning products.

Check all food preparation areas

These areas need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly, with equipment and utensils factored in:

  • assess your whole site to decide if you can do the cleaning yourself, or a professional deep clean is needed
  • check the cleaning products you already have and make sure they’re in date and fit for purpose (anything you’ve made up or diluted before closing won’t be usable). Replace where necessary
  • decide whether employees need training to use and dilute your cleaning products
  • increase your cleaning and disinfection frequency, especially for shared equipment and high through-put and touch areas

Concerned or need more help with sourcing your cleaning products? Use the government cleaning guidance to decide what you need to get up and running.

Deal with pests

Empty properties can be vulnerable to pest activity, so do a thorough check before reopening. Warning signs include damage and smearing to walls and doors, gnawed and stained packaging, footprints, droppings and smells, insect bodies and casings, and feathers.

You might need to arrange for a contractor to survey your site before reopening, if there are signs of pests.

Make sure handwashing, cleaning materials and hot and cold water are available

This will include soap, sanitiser and paper towels, with hot and cold running water at all sinks. You’ll also need to factor in your toilet facilities:

  • check all your products are in-date and fit for purpose
  • stock up on your regular cleaning products and provide alternatives where necessary
  • make sure your staff are up to date with government handwashing guidelines (increased frequency and for 20 seconds with warm water and soap)
  • provide adequate hand-washing stations at all appropriate points in your food production and communal areas, and toilets
  • provide hand sanitiser too, where appropriate (for example, on your front counter)
  • use signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique
  • if queues tend to form for your toilets, consider social distancing marking
  • set clear use and staff cleaning guidance for your toilets, factoring in increased frequency (your normal cleaning products are fine, but pay close attention to frequently touched surface and consider using disposable cloths or paper roll
  • keep toilet areas well ventilated, fixing main doors open if necessary

Checking your equipment

From fridges to ovens, you’ll need to check your equipment is clean, safe and working properly. Here are some of the main types of equipment and checks you’ll need to make:

Fridges, chilling equipment and freezers

  • clean your equipment thoroughly before restarting and restocking
  • check temperature records and requirements (and allow equipment to reach the required temperature before restocking)
  • decide if the equipment needs any maintenance
  • remove and refresh any ice

Other equipment

  • clean all equipment thoroughly before reopening
  • decide on any maintenance requirements and check temperature gauges
  • run dish and glasswashers empty on a hot cycle
  • flush through your taps and other water systems
  • read up on Legionella risks and take any necessary action
  • check your probe thermometers, recalibrate where necessary and stock up on probe wipes

Checking ingredients and products

Raw materials, ingredients and allergens all need to be factored in to your reopening planning:

Raw materials and ingredients

  • check for damage to packaging which might make food unsafe, or allergen information unclear
  • check for temperature damage and refer to any temperature control records you’ve made while your restaurant, pub or cafe’s been closed
  • check use-by and best-before dates, and that food has been stored correctly
  • check frozen food, and that you’re safe to use it based on your labelling and records
  • check you can source the raw materials you need
  • do checks on any new suppliers, making sure they’re reputable and meet requirements


You’ll need to do a thorough check on your allergen management system before reopening, especially if your suppliers or practices have changed, or you’re using any new products.

If you’ve added a takeaway or delivery service to your business, make sure cross-contamination risks are being managed. Whatever type of food business you’re running, make allergen information available to customers when they order and take delivery of food.

Social distancing and safety in your restaurant, cafe or pub

These new measures are designed to keep you, your employees and suppliers, and customers safe during coronavirus. Here’s the government advice:

Entertainment in pubs, bars and venues

Music, sport broadcasts, quizzes and lots more are part of business as usual, especially for pubs and bars. The government has advised that venues shouldn’t hold live performances in front of a live audience at this time.

The below guidance also applies:

  • take steps to avoid people having to raise their voices or shout (including playing loud music or broadcasts)
  • prevent close contact activities, such as dancing
  • decide whether your entertainment can be run in-line with current social distancing guidelines (can people remain two metres apart, for example?)
  • reconfigure indoor entertainment spaces to ensure customers are seated, rather than standing
  • use online ticketing and contactless payments for entertainment, where possible
  • communicating your arrangements clearly for customers

The government also points you to their guidance on social distancing, customer interaction and communication or instructions to the public, which includes their five steps to working safely and restaurants offering takeaway or delivery information.

Are you preparing to reopen your restaurant, cafe, bar or pub? What are your biggest concerns, and is the government’s guidance clear enough? Let us know in the comments.

Looking for restaurant insurance?

Are you looking to cover your fast food restaurant, sandwich shop, or fish and chip shop? You can build a tailored restaurant insurance policy choosing from a range of expert cover options, starting with public liability insurance. Run a quick quote to get started.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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