The top 5 challenges facing UK bars, restaurants and gastropubs opening up after the Covid-19 Lockdown 2020

The news that bars, restaurants and pubs could reopen from the 4th of July was long-awaited. As a result, recovering from the Covid-19 lockdown is the biggest challenge that most businesses in the hospitality sector will have ever faced. 

Every business has been impacted by lockdown differently and has different challenges as they reopen.  We work with businesses in the hospitality sector across the UK and have supported them throughout lockdown.  Below are some of the key challenges we see the hospitality sector facing as they start to reopen their doors.


The next 6-12 months is a critical in terms of cashflow.  

Managing a reduced stock list and menu is one way to keep a firm control on costs and margins. Operating in this way will also help you to leverage economies of scale and minimise waste. 

Even with a reduced menu, it is crucial to secure a flexible supplier network to help you manage unpredictable volumes in these first few months. Finding good purchasing partners to work with will help to ease any cashflow pressures you have as we move into 2021.


Reducing the risk of staff or customers contracting Covid-19 is key to staying open and maintaining customer confidence.

The governments document ‘Keeping workers and customers safe during Covid-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaways’ outlines how trading should safely resume.

Making sure that your staff are trained and adhering to the rules is a challenge in itself. On top of this, increased signage, equipment, one-way systems and additional cleaning measures can all seem daunting.  

Despite this, we have found that our bespoke way of working has enabled our customers to suitably prepare for the new cleaning and PPE demands. Thankfully suppliers have also risen to the challenge and are offering great products that make it easier for you to operate under these new conditions.

Covid-19 Supply chain Issues

COVID-19 is creating problems for food sector organisations.  It has disrupted their ability to produce goods and services. In addition, reduced staffing has impacted delivery schedules across the whole supply chain.

Insufficient capacity in domestic food production and just-in-time supply chains have resulted in a weakened UK food system. There is also concern that the pandemic will coincide with a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year.

As your business starts to get back into life, these vulnerabilities could disrupt your usual supply networks. 

We are helping our customers to reduce disruption via flexible purchasing strategies.  One of our clients runs a normally busy pub with a limited team who needed to focus on the operational needs of reopening.  We worked with them to secure savings in commercial waste, linen & towels, PPE and hand sanitiser. We also worked around stock issues, delivery restrictions and reduced supplier opening times.  By working together, we were able to ensure that the owner was ready to open, and saved money.

Adapting your purchasing approach will be critical to navigate these issues in the coming months.


The challenge of space is twofold; where your space is, and how much of it you have.

If you have outside space, you may be finding it easier to adjust seating layouts while retaining your required capacity.  For those with small premises and no outside space things may be trickier. 

Not surprisingly owners are working hard to present solutions rather than being part of the problem.  

All around us restaurants are in talks with landlords, local councils and local residents to expand the space they occupy into the outdoors. 

Customer confidence

Many people have missed the freedom to meet friends and family during lockdown. With summer in full swing the lure of a sunny pub garden and prospect of catching up with friends will hopefully bring customers back.

But it’s not going to be instant and it’s going to be different!  

We are finding that diners and pub goers are initially more likely to favour venues with outside space. This means that venues without outdoor areas may suffer as a result. Most importantly, customers are also going to need reassurance that rules are being adhered to, and that cleaning standards are suitably high.  

The Government ‘Eat out help out’ scheme offered diners 50% off their food bill Monday to Wednesday.  Time will tell if this was a successful driver that people needed to feel comfortable with the new way of eating and drinking out.

Beyond Covid-19

The future ‘normal’ for the hospitality industry is as yet uncertain.  

What is clear is that to get through the next 6-12 months, you need to adapt and change the way you manage day-to-day operations to meet the challenges that reopening brings. 

Here at Trade together our flexible approach is enabling us to support our customers with cost and supply chain challenges.  By working through things together, we are confident that we can help you see through the tough times we all find ourselves in. 

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