This week, pubs, restaurants and cafes across England with outdoor areas opened again to serve customers outside. If you haven’t already been for a meal out, you might be wondering what to expect.

There’ll be Test & Trace posters

Every venue has to show an NHS QR code poster. They’ll ask you to check in using the poster if you have the NHS Test & Trace app.

Forgotten your phone? Don’t own one? No worries – they can take your name and contact details on paper instead.

If you’ve booked in advance, details may have been taken during your booking, so you may not need to do it again.

Staff have to ask customers to take part in Test & Trace, by law, so be nice. Your details will be kept for 21 days and then destroyed.

If someone tests positive who’s been within 2 metres of you for 15 minutes or more, you might be contacted by NHS Test & Trace and asked to book a test.

You’ll probably have to book

To allow social distancing, tables have to be further apart than usual. This means venues will only be able to seat a limited number of people. So you may need to book in advance – especially on busy nights like Friday and Saturday.

This weekend is likely to be especially busy – so work out where you’re going in advance. Check the website or phone the venue to see if you need to book. It’ll save you time and stress when you go out.

Take a card

Cash is being discouraged by the NHS and government, so take your card with you.

Take your mask

If you’re going by public transport, you’ll need to wear a mask as you travel. You’ll need it when you aren’t sat down in the venue too, such as when using toilet facilities.

Expect table service

You won’t be allowed to stand at the bar – drinks and food will be ordered at your table. In some places, you might be able to order using a phone app.

Be kind to staff

Venues weren’t designed with Covid in mind. Our local restaurants and pubs are doing the best they can to survive in difficult conditions. By going out for a meal or drinks, you’re helping to support them.

Be patient. If something isn’t right with your order or you think service could be improved, please politely point it out to the staff – don’t go straight to social media.

Watch how much you drink

If you’re planning to drink alcohol and haven’t for a while, be extra careful and know your limits.

You don’t have to order a meal with your drinks this time and there’s no 10pm curfew, so it may be easy to get swept up in the joy of going out for the first time in a while and drink more than you intend.

It’s harder to socially distance, and to navigate the rules that are currently in place, if you’re intoxicated.

If you’re concerned about your drinking, someone else’s, or just want more information on how alcohol affects you, visit Drink Aware.

By Julie Weight

Julie writes stories and creates videos for Chelmsford City Council. Contact her at or on 01245 606984.

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