Pavement dining becomes a permanent high street feature for hospitality businesses

Pavement dining becomes a permanent high street feature for hospitality businesses

In a boost for the hospitality industry, the Government has announced that the temporary pavement licensing regime, has been made permanent.

This initiative simplifies regulations for pubs, restaurants, and cafes, enabling them to expand their outdoor seating areas without the burden of excessive red tape. It had been due to revert to original pre-pandemic rules last year but was extended and has now been made permanent.

What hospitality operators need to know

UKHospitality, who campaigned for this measure, have shared key details of the permanent pavement licensing regulations which are live as of 31 March 2024, including:

  1. There will be a £500 cap for first time applications and a £350 cap for renewal applications.
  2. Local authorities will be able to grant licences for a length of their choosing, up to two years. They are encouraged to grant licences for two years as standard.
  3. The consultation and determination periods will be 14 days each.
  4. The new guidance makes clear that a minimum width of 2000mm clear space should be provided between the obstacle and the edge of the footway. If this is not feasible due to physical constraints, then a minimum width of 1500mm could be regarded as the minimum acceptable distance.
  5. Existing licence holders can retain their licences granted under the temporary regime until the expiration date on their licence.

Key considerations for hospitality businesses

While the benefits of pavement dining are clear, there are several important considerations for hospitality businesses to ensure a seamless and successful transition to outdoor dining:

1. Matching the indoor experience outdoors

To provide a consistent dining experience, businesses should aim to replicate the comfort and atmosphere of their indoor spaces in their outdoor areas. This can include:

  • Quality furniture: Invest in comfortable and durable outdoor furniture that matches the style and quality of indoor seating.
  • Weather protection: Use umbrellas, awnings, or pergolas to protect customers from the elements, ensuring they can enjoy their meals in various weather conditions.
  • Heating and cooling: Consider portable heaters for cooler months and fans or misting systems for warmer weather to keep outdoor diners comfortable year-round.
  • Lighting: Install adequate lighting to create a warm and inviting atmosphere during evening hours, enhancing the dining experience and ensuring safety.

2. Maintaining service standards

Ensuring high service standards outdoors is crucial. Staff should be trained to manage the unique challenges of outdoor service, such as:

  • Efficient table management: Organise outdoor seating to ensure smooth service flow and quick turnaround times.
  • Clear communication: Use technology, such as handheld devices or apps, to improve order accuracy and speed up service.
  • Hygiene and cleanliness: Maintain rigorous cleaning protocols to ensure that outdoor areas are as clean and inviting as indoor spaces.

3. Addressing noise and privacy

Outdoor dining areas are more exposed to street noise and passersby, which can impact the dining experience. Strategies to mitigate these issues include:

  • Sound barriers: Use planters, screens, or barriers to reduce noise from traffic and create a more intimate setting.
  • Layout design: Arrange tables to provide some privacy and distance from pedestrian traffic.

4. Navigating regulatory requirements

Although the government aims to simplify the permitting process, businesses must still comply with local regulations regarding:

  • Space usage: Ensure that outdoor seating does not obstruct pavements or violate local zoning laws.
  • Safety standards: Adhere to safety regulations, including fire safety and accessibility standards for disabled customers.
  • Licensing: Obtain necessary permits and licenses for outdoor alcohol service if applicable.

Positive reactions from the industry

The hospitality industry has warmly welcomed the announcement. Industry leaders and small business owners alike see this as a critical step towards sustained recovery and growth.

Accountants for hospitality and food service businesses

Our award-winning team act on behalf of many hospitality clients located across London and the South East. We support a range of businesses, from independent operators to multi-location chains of restaurants, bars, cafés, hotels, leisure companies, cinemas and many others. You can find out more about our accountants for hospitality businesses here.

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This information has been produced by Rouse Partners LLP for general interest. No responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this information is accepted by Rouse Partners LLP. In all cases appropriate advice should be sought before making a decision.

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