How to operate a takeaway during Coronavirus lockdown

We are living in uncertain times. Our lives have been turned upside down since the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and we are having to adapt at an alarming rate, with laws being written and passed overnight, businesses closing, and others having to completely change the way they operate.

Many food businesses such as restaurants, pubs and cafes are having to shut their doors to seated guests but are finding a new lease of life by offering takeaways as a service. But what can and can’t you do when it comes to offering takeaway food and do you need to register or change licenses? We have read through the Government’s advice and rules to support you in your efforts to understand what you need to know when it comes to running a new takeaway service in the current climate.

What do I need to know about running a takeaway?

There won’t be a huge change in the way you conduct your business. Your kitchen will be operating in the same way, preparing and cooking food on demand. However, you won’t be opening your tables to the general public, so as to reduce the amount of people that you and your staff come into contact with.

It is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. In particular, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and so it is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.

The Government has allowed food businesses to remain open as they deem them to be an essential business.

What do I need to know about running a takeaway?

There won’t be a huge change in the way you conduct your business. Your kitchen will be operating in the same way, preparing and cooking food on demand. However, you won’t be opening your tables to the general public, so as to reduce the amount of people that you and your staff come into contact with.

It is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. In particular, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and so it is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.

The Government has allowed food businesses to remain open as they deem them to be an essential business.

You don’t need planning permission to change your business

Previously, you would have needed planning permission for any business that wished to change or add additional services to their current business under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987.

However, the Government has set out new temporary measures to allow restaurants, cafés and pubs to operate as a hot-food takeaway. This gives these food establishments the opportunity to continue to trade whilst providing a valuable service to their local community during a time where people are self-isolating.

Taking orders

According to Government guidelines, all orders should be taken either by telephone or via the internet – do not let people sit and wait in your establishment. Take card payments where possible to reduce the need to handle cash and keep your delivery team safe. This can be done over the phone or by setting up an online platform to collect payments.

Collection of food orders

If people are coming to collect food from your premises, they should only be allowed to collect their order and leave. No-one should be waiting inside. All collections should be staggered so as not to break the two-metre rule. Display notices about waiting times and collections may encourage any groups waiting outside to disperse.

Delivery of food orders

Contactless delivery should be encouraged. If food orders have been paid for prior to delivery, then ask your team to leave the food on the customer’s front doorstep and make the customer aware, abiding by the two-metre rule at all times.

Health and hygiene

There are a lot of new rules that have come into force to help contain and reduce the spread of COVID-19, including keeping at a minimum of two metres apart from other individuals. Now, more than ever, is the time to practice and maintain high standards of hygiene, from frequent cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces to employees washing their hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds. If any employees show any symptoms of the virus, then they should self-isolate immediately and your premises should be deep cleaned to help stop the spread of infection.

What to offer and how to inform your customers

We have seen a number of food businesses respond to the Government’s guidance and restrictions by becoming takeaways overnight. Offerings range from roast dinners and the traditional fried breakfast to pub favourites like scampi, burgers and sandwiches. The trick is not to over complicate your menu, and also to make it easy for people to choose what to eat. Think about how it will be transported and presented – will a shepherd’s pie, for example, look the same once it has left your kitchen?

Use social media to advertise your new menu. If you have a good ‘local following’ then the message should spread naturally amongst your followers. If you have never tried Facebook ads, then perhaps now is the time to advertise your business to your local community. There is plenty of information online about how to set up Facebook ads that can be targeted to people by their location.

Reach out to your regulars – just because your doors are shut, it doesn’t mean you’re not open for business. Offer loyalty deals to regulars as they will be the first people back in your establishment once you are fully open again.

Do I need to change my insurance?

Every insurer or cover provider will have different terms, so it is best to review the terms of your protection and to check with your insurer or cover provider. If you are a Member of The Retail Mutual you need to inform us immediately if there are any changes to the way you run your business as it could affect your cover.

As a reminder you still may be covered for:

  • Your customers becoming ill due to a problem caused by your food
  • A power cut causing your fridges or freezers to defrost and their contents becoming spoiled
  • A member of staff injuring a customer by spilling hot food or drink on them
  • Accidental damage to cooking or other equipment requiring it to be repaired or replaced
  • A member of your kitchen or serving staff having an injury whilst at work
  • Interruption to your business due to closure caused by fire or flooding
  • Loss of stock due to damage or theft – this also includes goods in transit
  • Accidental damage to buildings and fixed glass cover if you have buildings cover

Note that if you are now offering deliveries, The Retail Mutual’s Business cover does not cover vehicles that your employees may be using to help them perform deliveries. If you have goods in transit cover then the meals that are being delivered may be covered if they are damaged or lost in transit. If you would like to check The Retail Mutual’s cover wording, please click here.

If you are one of the businesses that has adapted to offer a takeaway service in order to maintain cash flow, pay employees and fulfil customers’ appetites, we wish you all the best with your efforts.

We have set up a dedicated resource hub, which addresses many of the queries we are receiving from our Members regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. It also includes the latest news and information about the Government support measures that are being put in place to support small businesses who are struggling or facing closure in these challenging times. You can visit the hub here and check back regularly for news and updates on this rapidly evolving situation.