COVID-19: Information for fast food outlets, cafes and restaurants in the UK operating takeaway and delivery services

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This is a summary of the regulations and guidance introduced by the Government to combat COVID-19 that will impact on fast food outlets, cafes and restaurants operating takeaway and delivery services during the coronavirus crisis.

Business closure regulations came into force on 21 March 2020 ("Regulations") requiring all restaurants and cafes not to sell food or drink for consuming on the premises and any part of the premises, or part of the premises, in which food or drink are sold for consumption on such premises must be closed. These restrictions will be reviewed in 28 days from the date the Regulations came into force. 

The Regulations allowed takeaway and delivery from restaurants and cafes. This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers. People must not consume food or drinks on site at fast food outlets, restaurants or cafés whilst waiting for takeaway food. Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services must not include alcoholic beverages in this list if their license does not already permit.

Government guidance issued on 27 March 2020 confirmed food delivery and takeaway can remain operational and can be a new activity supported by the new permitted development right.  The "new permitted development right" means that cafes and restaurants that did not previously provide takeaway from their premises can now provide takeaway services without obtaining any further planning consent.  This covers the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises.

Government guidance acknowledges that it is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.

The measures set out below will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

Guidelines specifically for takeaways and restaurants offering a pick-up service

The Government have issued the following guidelines for takeaway and collection services:

  • no orders should be taken in person on the premises - this should be communicated to customers by appropriate means such as signage
  • businesses should therefore only take orders online or by telephone
  • customers could have staggered collection times - customers should be discouraged from entering the premises until their order is ready
  • customers arriving without having already placed an order should be encouraged to leave the premises to place their order by telephone or online, and to return at a designated time for collection
  • customers whose orders are ready should enter one at a time to collect orders and make payments
  • businesses should discourage crowding outside the premises. Where possible, use queue management systems to maintain the 2 metres separation

Social distancing rules apply

The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone. People need to minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals. This advice applies to both inside the food business and in the external public areas where customers may need to queue. People should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds and more frequently than normal.

The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances. This may be best evaluated by the outlet or restaurant manager, however a few general indicators may be relevant to the majority of fast food outlets and restaurants offering takeaway:

  • use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the outlet if they have symptoms
  • regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
  • use floor markings inside the commercial spaces to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as serving counters and tills
  • use vertical signage to direct customers into lanes if feasible to facilitate movement within the premises while maintaining 2 metre distance
  • make regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly
  • place plexiglass barriers at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers
  • encourage the use of contactless payments where possible, without disadvantaging older or vulnerable customers
  • provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser


  • Employees can travel for work purposes, but only where they cannot work from home.
  • Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements.
  • Employees can still travel for work purposes, provided they are not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither they nor any of their household are self-isolating.
  • Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
  • At all times, workers should follow the Government guidance on self-isolation if they or anyone in their household shows symptoms
  • Any food handler who is unwell should not be at work. If they have symptoms, they should follow government advice and stay at home.
  • Although it is very unlikely that coronavirus is transmitted through food, as a matter of good hygiene practice anyone handling food should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This should be done as a matter of routine, before and after handling food, and especially after being in a public place, blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Food packaging

The World Health Organization advises that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low. The risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also very low.

While food packaging is not known to present a specific risk, efforts should be made to ensure it is cleaned and handled in line with usual food safety practices.

Cleaning should be in line with food hygiene practice and the environmental controls set out in the business’ HACCP. Staff should continue to follow existing risk assessments and safe systems of working. No additional precautions need to be taken.


A business or venue operating in contravention of Government measures will be committing an offence. Local authorities (for example, Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers) will monitor compliance, with support from the police if appropriate. Businesses and venues that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices and fixed penalty notices. Businesses that continue to contravene the measures will be forced to close down.

See also our Coronavirus (COVID-19) page.

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