Sep 19, 2020

How the ‘rule of 6’ COVID-19 restrictions affects restaurant capacity numbers for private dining rooms.

The government’s announcement of the ‘Rule of 6’ emergency restriction on guests per table permitted at gatherings in a bid to curb the increase in Coronavirus infections in the United Kingdom has had an impact on bookings for private dining rooms at UK restaurants.

The responsibility of restaurants to help protect public health.

The new rule of six has meant that many restaurants are effectively on life support due to the reduction in the number of guests that they are able to accommodate for private dining events. The government is obviously having to operate the unenviable act of balancing the nation’s health and wealth as it attempts to stimulate the economy by allowing the public to spend money in restaurants and pubs – and by doing so help protect the jobs of three million people in the UK hospitality industry – whilst at the same time protecting the public from the rising virus infection rate.

Restaurants are aware of their responsibility to protect the health of both their customers and staff as part of their social duty to protect the wider public health and have done a remarkable job in rising to the challenge with scrupulous sanitising and social distancing measures adhered to alongside maintaining records of staff and customers to support NHS Test and Trace.  

Mixed messaging in response to the guidelines restricting group bookings to just six guests.

Restaurants in London and throughout the country have been battling to survive profitably since being allowed to reopen two and a half months ago on 4th July with some operators reporting that their attempts at doing so have been severely disrupted by having to turn away larger group dining bookings since the government’s announcement banning gatherings of more than six guests with effect from 14th September. Other restaurants have suggested that the ‘safe dining for six’ new measures are liberating as they will allow indoor dining beyond a family or bubble. 

Consumer confidence regarding the safety of visiting restaurants for group dining events has obviously taken a turn with the rule of six announcement. Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of the UK Hospitality trade industry group, has expressed the fear that consumers are beginning to feel that the announcement restricting the number of guests allowed to dine together to six is a message from the government that they should not be going out to socialize in restaurants. 

Confusion regarding whether the ‘rule of six’ applies to six guests per table or six guests per room for events in private dining rooms.

As has been the case since the lockdown restrictions were eased to allow restaurants and pubs in the UK to reopen on 4th July with social distancing restrictions in place, there is confusion within the UK restaurant industry as well as among people looking for private dining rooms for their events regarding how the rule of six applies.

Private Dining Rooms lists hundreds of restaurants with private dining rooms in London and throughout the UK and restaurant operators that we have spoken to in recent days have provided differing interpretations of the new guidelines restricting up to six guests with some restaurants understanding the rule to mean that only six guests are allowed per room and others operating multiple socially distanced tables of six guests – dining at 1-metre plus apart – per room, as they are permitted to do in the main dining area of their restaurant. Irrespective of how the the rule limiting dining events to no more than six guests is interpreted there is obviously still a demand for small private dining rooms at London restaurants with capacities that can accommodate this number of guests at one table of socially distanced guests.

Government guidelines on number of guests allowed at wedding and civil partnership events held in private dining rooms.

Exceptions to the rule of 6 include wedding and civil partnership receptions and celebrations in England which under the current guidelines allow for private dining for up to 30 guests providing that they are safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 secure venue.

The importance of Christmas private dining events to the London restaurant industry.

Christmas private dining events play a crucial role in the profitability of restaurants in London and throughout the country with corporate Christmas parties and group festive lunch & dinner parties with family and friends being traditionally relied upon to generate a significant percentage of restaurants’ turnover. This ‘bread and butter’ business is currently taking a massive hit and Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality has commented that its members had reported a sudden drop in bookings after the rule of six clampdown announcement was made. 

All in all, this is an extremely taxing time for both restaurants offering private dining rooms for events and companies & individuals wishing to book such event spaces for their celebration lunches and dinners.

The pent up demand for private dining events in 2021.

As in all areas of life, there must always be hope and the feeling within the London restaurant industry, based on the many conversations that Private Dining Rooms has been having in recent days with restaurant operators in the capital, is that companies will start booking group lunches and dinners for Q1 and Q2 of 2021 towards the end of this year to accommodate what will undoubtedly be an enormous pent up demand for corporate private dining events.

Restaurants, whilst being aware of the light at the end of the tunnel, are struggling to stay in business in the interim period due to the government’s capacity restrictions which have been imposed in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus throughout the country.

It can only be hoped that the government will pull out all the stops necessary to assist restaurants during this time of unprecedented turbulence to ensure their survival and the jobs of the hundreds of thousands of people that they employ.