Restaurants and cafes: getting ready to reopen and how card payments can help

Published: 28/06/2020

The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when Boris Johnson announced the reopening of restaurants and cafes on July 4th, but while joe public is chomping at the bit to get a break from their kitchen or a proper cup of coffee for the first time in months, for those working in the industry, there’s a lot of work to be done. 

The announcement came on June 23rd, leaving less than two weeks for restaurant and cafe owners to implement all the necessary COVID-safe measures to keep themselves and their customers safe.

So, to help, we’ve put together an in-depth guide to everything you’ll need to know before your grand re-opening, let’s get stuck in.

Becoming COVID-secure

In documents issued by the government, there are steps outlined for businesses to follow to ensure the safety of everyone involved from July 4th. Three of these steps can be implemented by restaurants and cafes, so let’s take a look at what’s involved:

1. Social distancing 

The two-metre social distancing rule will be replaced by a one-metre-plus rule but where possible a two-meter distance should be maintained. Confused? Essentially, this means the two-metre rule remains unless it’s physically impossible to abide by, in which case you are responsible for doing everything possible to minimise the risk of COVID-transmission, such as:

  • Using barriers or screens to separate people.
  • Carefully considering whether an activity is essential to the operating of your business - if not remove it.
  • Staggering arrival and departure times of staff and customers.
  • Keeping activities which require a distance of less than two metres as short as possible, e.g. table service.
  • Have people sitting/standing back-to-back or side-to-side.

Where you can maintain the two-metre rule, enforce it using strategies like:

  • Use tape to mark two-meter spacing on the floor (this would be useful for toilet and counter queues).
  • Put up signs reminding everyone of the rules.
  • Arrange and signpost one-way traffic through your premises.
  • Avoid shared workspaces and put floor markers in place to indicate where designated workspaces start and end.

2. Hygiene, handwashing, and cleaning procedures

No doubt you’re all too aware of the importance of handwashing and thorough sanitisation already, but here are some actionable things to implement:

  • Make hand sanitiser available throughout your workplace as well as in restrooms.
  • Frequently disinfect regularly touched surfaces such as handrails, doorknobs, and card machines.
  • Clean busy areas more frequently, preferably following each customer contact.
  • Set clear guidelines for the use and cleaning of toilets, and make sure this is clearly visible to patrons. 
  • Encourage customers and staff alike to follow the NHS handwashing guidance - you might put posters up as reminders.
  • Be sure hand drying facilities are available i.e. electric dryers or paper towels - a communal towel is a big no-no.

3. COVID-19 risk assessment 

Just as you’d need to carry out a risk assessment in line with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulations under ordinary circumstances, before reopening after lockdown you should ensure the health and safety of your workforce by conducting a health and safety assessment.

  • Head here to brush up on HSE regulations.
  • Have a conversation with your workforce about new procedures you’ll be introducing to be COVID-secure and ask if they’ve got any concerns or suggestions.
  • Make sure everyone’s aware of the results of your assessment - it’s also a good idea to share these on your website (if you have one).

Guidelines for restaurants

As well as the above guidance, the government has released information pertaining solely to restauranteurs, so here’s a breakdown of what you’ll need to prepare for:

  • To help maintain distancing, reservations are suggested to stagger arrivals.
  • Minimise the cross-contamination of ingredients by creating a reduced menu.
  • Cutlery and napkins should only be brought out with food.
  • Restrict the number of customers allowed on your premises at any given time.
  • Provide single sachets of condiments on request - no bottles or shared items.
  • For all merchandise and goods entering the premises, cleaning procedures need to be introduced.
  • Assign staff mealtimes to minimise transmission risk.
  • Contactless card payments are encouraged.
  • Rearrange seating so diners are kept two-metres apart, or the very least one-metre plus. This will also give staff adequate space to manoeuvre safely and may involve removing some furniture for a while.
  • Avoid face-to-face seating.
  • Remove non-essential furnishings and decorative items as an additional precaution.

Table service

Within the government’s guidelines it’s stipulated that indoor restaurants may only operate with table service, and if possible with a reduced workforce. Besides the traditional pen and paper approach - which mightn’t necessarily be the safest option right now - here are a few suggestions for how to make table service work in the safest way possible:

  • Introduce pre-order forms online.
  • Use app-technology so customers can order directly from their phone, minimising interactions.
  • Ensure servers wear face coverings when approaching a table.
  • Ventilation and air circulation is an important element in reducing risk, so do what you can to improve both i.e. air conditioning, and opening doors and windows. 

Test and trace

As a restaurant owner, you will be required to collect customer data so in the event of a local outbreak this information can be used to contain the spread further. Here are three ideas of how you might go about gathering this kind of information:

  1. In-app - if app technology is something you’ve already got in place, add this as a new feature for customers to fill in before ordering. 
  2. Online - collect the necessary information during the booking process online.
  3. Upon arrival/departure - have customers fill out a form with their personal details as they enter, or before they leave your restaurant. 

Guidelines for cafes

Requirements for cafes are as follows:

  • Cafes who offer ‘in-house’ seating must close this space and all customers must take food and drink away to be consumed - if an outdoor seating area is available this may be used.
  • Frequent cleaning of countertops, workspaces, and equipment between uses, i.e. coffee machines.
  • Removal of any unnecessary/unused items from countertops.
  • Contactless card payments are encouraged.

How card payments can help

Since human contact is being kept to a minimum and the World Health Organisation is warning businesses against handling notes and coins where possible, customer payment in cash doesn’t sound like the best option. 

You may have noticed in the guidelines for both restaurants and cafes was ‘contactless card payments are encouraged’, and this is because it’s shown to be the safest way to collect payment.

Thanks to near field technology, contactless payment doesn't require any contact between payer, payee, and machine, so the chance of any germs being spread is kept to an absolute minimum.

The limit on contactless card payments has recently been increased to £45, and unsurprisingly, throughout the pandemic, consumers have adopted this new limit at a staggering rate - hygiene and safety are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and consumers are likely to stick to restaurants and cafes they deem as safe and secure, so offering contactless payments is a great place to start. 

For cafes, the £45 limit may be high enough for most transactions, whereas restaurants likely deal with higher sums more regularly. The good news is, Apple and Android Pay - both of which are contactless methods of payment - have no cap on spending, so customers can order to their heart’s content and still feel safe and secure when paying. 

Top tip: if your customer spends more than £45 and doesn’t have Apple or Android Pay set up, allowing chip & pin payment isn’t forbidden, just don’t forget to disinfect your card machine following each use. 

Looking to start accepting card payments? You’ve got options:

Portable card machines 

Likely the most popular option amongst restauranteurs, portable machines carry a 50-metre range allowing you to take the machine to the customer’s table for payment. The base is plugged into the mains and the terminal is powered using Bluetooth technology, they’re also:

  • Lightweight,
  • Durable,
  • Print instant receipts,
  • Carry a long-lasting charge, and
  • Quick and easy to set up.

Countertop card machines

Countertop machines do exactly what they say on the tin - sit on your countertop or till point - making them the machine of choice for many cafes and take-outs. They plug directly into your broadband or phone line and come packed with all the latest technology and features, plus:

  • They’re small and compact,
  • Offer fast receipt printing,
  • They’re PCI compliant, and
  • Super easy to set up.

Mobile card machines

Mobile machines can accept payments on the go - perfect if you offer a delivery or takeaway service. They use 3G technology via a sim card (just like a mobile phone) and:

  • Hold a long battery life,
  • Are light and durable,
  • Print instant receipts, and
  • Are quick and easy to set up. 


Here at takepayments, all of our market-leading card machines - portable, countertop, and mobile - are set up to accept contactless payments as standard. That includes both card payments up to £45 plus Apple and Android Pay, so you and your customers can rest assured your payments are COVID-secure with us. 

To learn more about our machines, or for some help deciding which one is the best fit for your restaurant or cafe business, get in touch with one of our friendly experts today.

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