After the first national lockdown in March, restaurants were able to reopen after the 4th of July if they made changes to their premises and staff. Restaurants must have COVID-secure premises, staff wearing face masks, social distancing measures, increased cleaning and ventilation to remain open – Plus mandatory track and trace that records all customers for 21 days.
The UK restaurant market is one of the most diverse, with many different cuisines on offer all over the UK, with a thriving independent restaurant industry in many areas. In 2018, consumer spending in food venues reached £92 billion – Showing how important it is to the economy and to the UK public.
Obviously, spending in restaurants has reduced significantly in 2020, even with the eat out to help out government scheme it’s estimated that consumer spending was down around 5.2% (in restaurants).
On the 12th of October, the UK government announced a new set of further lockdown restrictions in tiers. The first tier is medium which currently covers the majority of the UK, the second tier is high for areas where cases are rising quickly. The third tier is very high which is for areas of the country that have rapidly rising COVID-19 cases, where hospitals are at threat of being overwhelmed.
In the medium tier, restaurants and other venues can remain open but must close from 10 pm to 5 am (restaurants that have the facilities to do takeaway only can remain open after 10 pm). People in areas with medium restrictions can still meet people outside of their household if they follow the rule of 6!
High tier areas include all the medium restrictions but a ban people meeting with others from different households, restaurants can still remain open. However, in the very high tier, many hospitality venues will be required to close which will have a massive effect on the economy and on people’s mental wellbeing!
With Northern Ireland and Wales announcing national lockdowns (and Scotland considering one), many people think it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the UK follow – which is concerning for many people, potentially losing all their social outlets, having a serious effect on the mental health of UK residents.
What is the Role of Restaurants Normally for Mental Health?
The restaurant industry has many positive effects on mental health for the general public, they allow groups to socialise and eat which is what we’re used to doing historically (even as cavemen!). Having and eating good food has been proven to boost your mood and mentality, this is why restaurants are a crucial part in people’s general mental health, getting people out of the house and eating a good meal!
Restaurants encourage people to leave their homes and socialise, even those who go to restaurants alone will benefit from the social interaction with the staff. In the UK, loneliness is one of the biggest killers of the elderly population!
Oftentimes older people will go out to restaurants (or pubs, bars, cafes, etc) to combat their loneliness – In some cases this is the only social interaction these people get. Restaurants help the general public’s mental health in more ways than one!
Larger families often meet at restaurants for meals and celebrations. Children and adolescents who share meals with their family have improved mental health, research has also shown that it also improved the mental health of parents too!
These larger and often extended families usually cannot host all members in one house, which is why restaurants are so important for mental health. They allow families to get their quality time, eat together and enjoy a meal altogether – This can often make support systems stronger.
How Will Restaurants Shutting Affect Mental Health in the UK?
In 2019, approximately 5.4 million British people visited a restaurant 2 to 3 times a month – with that statistic rising year upon year! This shows how much restaurants closing will have an effect on people’s mental health, with many used to visiting restaurants regularly.
The restaurant industry was one of the largest growing sectors in the UK, with more and more residents eating out habitually every year. Restaurants closing down again will force many Britons to stop this habit and provide no alternative, no one is allowed indoors or outdoors with people outside of their household – This will be especially devastating to those who live alone.
Lockdowns that cause venues like restaurants to close down have a negative effect on people’s mental health and sleep quality, according to recent research from Italy. Many peoples normal routines will be disrupted when stricter lockdown measures are in force, routines provide a sense of normality for people and can have a serious impact on their mental health.
Research has shown that eating alone is associated with higher levels of mental health issues, like depression – we are used to eating in groups. Humans are social mammals, we need social contact to stay mentally fit and healthy!
Without restaurants, many people feel disconnected from others – Even if you live with others, eating alone can cause mental and physical issues. Having a group meal can seriously improve your mentality, if you don’t have the facilities for that at home or you live alone, there could be a serious decline in mental health without restaurants facilitating these group meals.
In 2017, there were an estimated 988,000 Britons working in restaurants (which has most likely risen in recent years). That’s almost one million people who will potentially not be in work, this will significantly affect these workers’ mental health. Oftentimes jobs provide people with a routine and a sense of normality – With these further lockdowns, this is in jeopardy for all those in the restaurant industry.
People all over the UK are facing tighter lockdown restrictions or even a second full lockdown, looking after our mental health is more important now than ever! Getting out of the house, having a good meal and socialising with friends/family seems like small steps to improving your mental health but it could make all the difference.
If you feel as if the current COVID situation in the UK is affecting the mental health of one of your employees, leading to poor performance in work then it might be worth speaking to your outsourced human resources department.
Amber is an Intern project support officer and blogger for Wurkplace, helping with digital marketing and content writing.
She holds a BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour degree from the University of Chester, and is passionate about broadening her skill set.