As COVID19 statistics and figures give us the first glimmer of hope that we may be able to consider a lifting or easing of the lockdown, many are beginning to turn their minds to what the next new normal is going to look like.

A recent YouGov survey indicates that we won't all be rushing back into our old routines.  60% of respondents said that they would feel very or fairly uncomfortable visiting bars and restaurants (though doubtless such indulgences are very much missed), compared with (for example) 70% of respondents who said they would feel very or fairly comfortable visiting a garden centre.  Probably not the responses which restaurant and bar owners wanted to see.

I wrote last week about new legislation which is coming into force under cover of the  Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill which will mean that commercial landlords will be prevented from issuing statutory demands and winding up petitions against tenants until 30 June.  There is also the ban on forfeiture of commercial leases until 30 June.  However, even with the current ban on forfeiture and upcoming ban on winding up petitions, the unpaid rent is still due and owing and landlords will not wait indefinitely for payment when the ban is lifted.

We do not know yet whether the 30 June deadline will be extended (and much will depend on whether / when we can "flatten the curve") but assuming the lockdown can be lifted before the end of June - exactly how many people will rush back to restaurants and bars remains to be seen.

Much will depend on what (if any) measures restaurants and bars put into place to help protect their customers.  Heidi Wagstaff wrote last week about Easyjet's plans to keep distance between passengers by keeping middle seats on airplanes empty.  Doubtless a similar format of distancing is something which the restaurant community is considering but the reduced revenue which a restaurant may face if it seats every table 2 metres from the next may not make the business commercially viable.  

There are calls on the government to help businesses continue to survive after the immediate threat of the lockdown is over.  Whether or not any measures will be offered, a restaurant or bar's ability to survive will depend on its ability to adapt and to take note of the potential reluctance of much-needed customers to walk in through the front door.  Leon (turning its restaurants into shops), Wagamama (promoting their wok-from-home cookery guide) and Cafe Nero (offering their coffees online and in supermarkets) are all excellent examples of entities already adapting to meet customer demand and bring in revenue.

Doubtless, if the restaurants and bars can survive through the pandemic and out the other side we will eventually all return to dining out in the way we were accustomed.  In the meantime, I'll see you at the garden centre...