Pub and restaurant bosses have said that welcoming customers back into thousands of venues across the country will help the sector “back on to the path to normality”.
On Monday, pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to serve customers inside for the first time in at least four months amid the latest easing of lockdown measures.
Groups of six or two households will be able to enjoy meals and drinks inside venues, in a move which will see thousands of places with limited outdoor space reopen for the first time since the third lockdown hit.
However, industry bosses have stressed that there are still challenges ahead as restrictions, such as table service and social distancing, continue to hinder profitability.
Patrick Dardis, chief executive of London-based pub owner and brewer Young’s, told the PA news agency that he will “find it hard to relax” until restrictions ease dramatically on June 21.
“I am excited because it is a major step forward for us and our customers,” he said.
“The past few weeks have been really positive and trade has been better than expected but we’re still losing money.
“The weather has been pretty dire and people are hardy but we really needed this next step to come.”
He said the company will bring back 1,400 workers from furlough and has hired another 500 workers for the latest phase, which will see all 276 Young’s pubs open again.
“I really see June 21 as our Freedom Day but welcoming all our staff back, seeing more customers return will be a big step back on to the path to normality,” Mr Dardis added.
Clive Watson, co-founder and executive chairman of City Pub Group, said the business is positive about Monday but also cautioned that next month will be key.
“We are excited for Monday as it allows us to open all our pubs and get our teams doing what they love doing – delivering hospitality,” he said.
“But in reality, it is just another step towards normality which hopefully will come on June 21 when all restrictions are lifted and our customers will be able sit or stand with freedom, to move and socialise, cheer their favourite team on and celebrate with parties.
“We are really looking forward to that.”
According to the real estate adviser Altus Group, 99,045 indoor hospitality premises in England will be able to reopen on May 17 as a result of changes to restrictions
Pizza Express managing director Zoe Bowley told PA that preparations for Monday have been “smooth”.
The chain has opened 143 restaurants for outdoor dining but will serve at all 347 of its locations across England, Scotland and Wales from next week.
“There is certainly a sense of excitement amongst all our teams,” she said.
“We have enjoyed serving our customers outside over the last month but there is nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of a busy pizzeria, and the positive emotion of having all our restaurants open for the first time in over a year, and all our teams back together.
“We recognise that there are challenges for the sector as a whole such as the ongoing property negotiations, and hospitality has been particularly on the front line during the pandemic.
“But as a company specifically, we undertook some decisions last year, putting us in a strong position for growth which stands us in good stead for expansion and some exciting initiatives we have in the pipeline.”
Wagamama opened 83 of its restaurants for outdoor dining but said it is pleased to open more sites to customers.
It said 120 restaurants will serve customers indoors from May 17, with safety measures in place to continue to use its bench formats in its restaurants.
Emma Woods, chief executive officer of the company, said: “We’re so excited for this next chapter as we reopen our doors again for indoor dining and we can’t wait to welcome our guests back to the bench.
“Our guests can expect the same great Wagamama experience whilst complying with coronavirus safety regulations, ensuring both guest and staff safety.”