Restaurants Reopening in the UK: Everything You Need to Know

It’s the question on everyone’s taste buds: When will our favourite pubs and restaurants reopen again?

Well, we finally have our answer.

In February 2021, the UK government revealed the highly-anticipated reopening plan. After a long and lonely winter of lockdown, the announcement has provided the nation with a hopeful glimpse of life after COVID-19.

To the overwhelming delight of hospitality owners and their number one fans (here’s looking at you), restaurants and pubs are among the first establishments to reopen, and are allowed to serve food and alcohol in their outdoor seating areas as early as Monday 12 April. 

Since the announcement, many restaurants and pubs have reported an extraordinary surge in reservation numbers and many are already booked out for weeks and – in some cases – months.

There will be a number of initial measures and restrictions in place. However, outdoor dining, masks, social distancing and household limits seem minuscule compromises for the reward of dining out again (and a night off another tin can dinner). 

Book a table

Outdoor dining certainly has its charm. Photo credit: Liam McKay via Unsplash

To help you dine out in a responsible fashion, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about the three stages of pubs and restaurants reopening in England. Each stage is spaced five weeks apart and the transition from one stage to the next will only take place if certain tests are passed.

In Scotland, the government is aiming to reopen restaurants from Monday 26 April, depending on the state of infection rates and vaccination roll out. Northern Ireland and Wales have yet to release their reopening plan just yet – but we’ll let you know as soon as we know more.

The Three Stages of Dining Out Again 

Stage one

Outdoor dining only: 12 April – 16 May  

While restaurants have been given the green light to reopen as early as Monday 12 April in England, only those with outdoor seating areas will be allowed to recommence their dine-in services. Luckily, with springtime upon us, al fresco dining is just what we need after several months of being stuck inside.

Picture it now: dining with a view at a rooftop restaurant, drinking in a lush beer garden, date night on a restaurant terrace. Anyone else got chills?

Here are a few other rules to keep note of:

  • At venues serving alcohol, restaurants must offer table service. This means all guests will be required to order, be served and eat and drink while seated.

  • Diners are allowed to go inside to use a restaurant's toilet facilities.

  • Up to six people from any household or any number of people from a maximum of two households may dine together. Goodbye, virtual dinner parties.

Unfortunately, we have to remember that not all restaurants are equipped with an outdoor area and will be unable to reopen. According to Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, “nearly 60 percent of hospitality businesses don’t have outdoor areas and many that do only have small spaces.”

With that in mind, we still encourage you to do what you can to support the local restaurants that still have a couple of especially hard months ahead. This could be through ordering takeaway for a picnic in your favourite park, purchasing gift vouchers for when they open in May or as simple as liking, commenting and re-sharing one of their social media posts. A little kindness goes a long way.

Remember how good dining tables look? Photo credit: Ali Inay via Unsplash

Stage two

The return of indoor dining: 17 May – 20 June  

If vaccinations continue to be rolled out according to plan and infection rates and new coronavirus variants are stable, then restaurants may reopen for indoor dining from as early as Monday 17 May. 

Similar to the reopening of outdoor dining, a group of up to six people from any household or any number of people from a maximum of two households may dine together.

As indoor seating opens, the number of people allowed to dine outside together will increase to 30.

Stage three

Goodbye restrictions: 21 June

After five weeks of reopening for indoor dining, the government hopes to lift all restrictions and nightclubs will be allowed to open again. See you at the party.

The moment we're all waiting for. Photo credit: Adrien Olichon via Unsplash

As mentioned, these dates depend on many different factors. We can all do our part to keep infection rates stable by being responsible diners. Keep your distance, wear a mask when recommended, stay within your social bubble, stick to waving and please (seriously, please) wash your hands.