Back to bars

[16 July] Restaurants and bars serving food or with large outdoor spaces in NI welcomed patrons back on 3rd July, offering a boost to the hospitality trade which is one of the biggest sectors in the province. According the Exterion Media’s Work.Shop.Play research, 58% of people in Belfast are somewhat excited for the reopening of venues.

Over one fifth of people in Belfast visited a bar/restaurant in the week following the reopening, with a further 19% having immediate plans to go out. Table service and social distancing is now required by venues, ensuring utmost safety for patrons and staff. 70% of people in Belfast support safety measures, appreciating that some adaptation is necessary to allow us to enjoy a return to normal life. Support for contactless technology is also high, with most people welcoming contactless payments and app ordering systems to minimise interaction with staff.

On the flip side, the potential need to queue for entry is a deterrent for 54% of people who would see it as a reason to avoid going out. However the research also found that the majority of people will plan in advance to go out now, with only 11% making spur of the moment visits, so forward booking will minimise time spent queueing.

Throughout the lockdown, restaurants showed their ingenuity and flexibility by offering cook at home versions of popular menu dishes, and demand exists for this to continue with 39% of respondents hoping for the option to remain after reopening. Councils have also been encouraged to implement special ‘Pavement Café’ licenses, with several already taking applications. This aids social distancing and will revitalise city centre locations, and the move to introduce a café culture is welcomed by 44% of people in Belfast. Inclement weather in Northern Ireland is always a concern, and how venues will cater for outdoor guests through winter remains to be seen, however new venues such as Cargo in Belfast shows how adaptation is possible.