Branches of Burger King and Starbucks will reopen this week as the UK’s cafes and restaurants begin to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown.
The two brands are offering only takeaway and drive-through options, and these are the first tentative steps taken by large chains towards a full reopening of food outlets. Government guidelines published on Monday said this could be allowed in July if the virus appears to be under control.
Starbucks said it would reopen 150 branches on Thursday, with customers able to buy coffee to take away or for delivery, while Burger King stepped up its phased reopening, with an extra 35 branches offering drive-through collection or delivery.
They joined other large chains that had already reopened some of their outlets or announced plans to do so this week.
Coronavirus: should everyone be wearing face masks?
The World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on face masks has remained consistent during the coronavirus pandemic. It has stuck to the line that masks are for healthcare workers – not the public.
“Wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including Covid-19. However, the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection, and other measures should also be adopted,” the WHO has stated.
Nevertheless, as some countries have eased lockdown conditions, they have been making it mandatory to wear face coverings outside, as a way of trying to inhibit spread of the virus. This is in the belief that the face covering will prevent people who cough and sneeze ejecting the virus any great distance.
There is no robust scientific evidence – in the form of trials – that ordinary masks block the virus from infecting people who wear them. There is also concerns the public will not understand how to use a mask properly, and may get infected if they come into contact with the virus when they take it off and then touch their faces.
Also underlying the WHO’s concerns is the shortage of high-quality protective masks for frontline healthcare workers.
Nevertheless, masks do have a role when used by people who are already infected. It is accepted that they can block transmission to other people. Given that many people with Covid-19 do not show any symptoms for the first days after they are infected, masks clearly have a potential role to play if everyone wears them.
Sarah Boseley Health editor
Contactless payments, plastic screens and a ban on reusable cups are among the measures being put in place to protect customers and workers as the businesses reopen their doors.
The government plan for rebuilding the economy, released on Monday, said food providers, pubs and accommodation, as well as hairdressers, cinemas and places of worship would reopen “no earlier than 4 July”.
However, the document said that when this phase arrived, “some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point”.
The trade body UK Hospitality said it was drawing up rules to help its members operate safely at that point.
Its chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “The size and diversity of the hospitality sector means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reopening … Even within the same sector, there is bound to be a huge difference in the size, shape, location and layout of outwardly similar businesses.”
Starbucks said that since it shut in March it had been “testing and refining” safety procedures”, learning from what it had seen in China and the US, where the majority of its branches are now open.
Customers will be encouraged to order online in advance and given staggered times to collect their orders. Employees have been told that customers waiting to collect an order should do so in a designated area where there is space for social distancing or, if this is not possible, only be allowed into shops one at a time.
In a message to employees published on its website, Alex Rayner, Starbucks’ UK retail general manager, said the goal was to be fully open by the end of June “but we will take our time, adapting to customer behaviour and in-store capabilities along the way”.
Burger King said it planned to reopen a further 72 branches next Monday and 40 a week after that. These will be for delivery or in a drive-through format only.
The chain has provided staff with masks and gloves and given them training on distancing measures. It said stringent cleaning and contactless delivery options were also in place.
Pret a Manger on Monday reopened a further 70 shops in London and other major cities and towns including Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge and Oxford. It is now offering a delivery and takeaway service from more than 100 outlets.
McDonald’s plans to reopen 15 sites in south-east England this Wednesday.It has reduced its menu to make distancing easier in its kitchens, and introduced Perspex screens and floor markings where necessary.
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