Businesses’ care aims to reassure cautious customers

This story was published 25 May 2021

After pubs, bars and restaurants re-opened to indoor customers, North Yorkshire businesses have revealed the extent of the safety measures they have put in place.

Inside Magpie cafe

The safety measures both meet the Government’s ‘roadmap’ rules and re-assure those who may feel cautious about taking steps back towards normality.

Owners and managers have put wide-ranging measures in place – from providing hand sanitiser to re-arranging the layout of their premises where necessary – to ensure customers both enjoy the experience of their visits and stay safe while doing so.

The effort reflects the kindness and caring which has been a constant theme in North Yorkshire and provides reassurance to those who are cautious about returning to their old routines after more than a year of lockdown and shielding.

North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health Louise Wallace has praised the efforts made by businesses of all types to put in Covid-safety measures to reassure the whole community they can have the confidence to enjoy trips to the shops, eating out or meeting socially in pubs and bars.

However, she emphasised that the current un-locking of the road map marked a change to restrictions rather than the end and that everyone should play their part and continue to be careful in practising hands, face, space and fresh air.

She said: “Vaccination has proved a huge success with increasing numbers now receiving their second jab as people in their 30s are being offered their first. While that offers increased protection against serious coronavirus symptoms, precautionary measures are still an important part of the plan to keep everyone safe.

“Businesses of all types have done a tremendous job to keep their staff and customers protected and that should give people confidence to know they can visit them safely.

“But we can all play our part by continuing to follow Government guidelines on hands, face, space and fresh air to help ensure the roadmap unfolds as intended. Although great progress has been made, there is still a need for everyone to continue to take care.”

North Yorkshire’s Stronger Communities team has worked with 23 community support organisations (CSOs) throughout the pandemic to ensure residents have had the help they have needed with tasks like shopping and those organisations will continue to operate.

Head of Stronger Communities Marie-Ann Jackson said: “The CSOs have provided a lifeline for many residents for more than a year and will continue to offer the support they need and this includes helping people return to a more normal lifestyle.”

One of the hundreds of businesses registered on the County Council’s North Yorkshire Buy Local site has spoken about how they are keeping customers safe, and what customers can do to help keep themselves safe.

Department store Barkers in Northallerton has returned to welcoming customers – and now diners – back but with important safety measures in place.

Some will be instantly recognisable to visitors, such as specified entrance and exit doors to their High Street premises and out of town furniture store, to help reduce opportunities for customers to find themselves passing each other.

Staff wear masks, hand sanitiser is readily available and restaurant customers will find they are offered a table service and will be in the presence of fewer other diners than they might normally expect.

Overall customer numbers in store are also controlled at busy times, though director Guy Barker said the department store format provided a spacious environment, which helped with social distancing.

However, many other tasks are performed behind the scenes to make sure the shops are a safe environment for both customers and staff - such as frequent cleaning of items such as handrails and lift buttons.

Mr Barker said: “We have had very positive feedback from both our colleagues and customers, who appreciate the distance we have gone to in putting safety measures in place.

“After the tough year we have all had, we are very thankful to have such supportive customers, and it feels like a vote of confidence for our safe and secure stores to see them returning through our doors once again.”

Similarly, for many visitors, Whitby’s Magpie Café is as much a part of the town’s character as the whalebones or the abbey. The distinctive black and white frontage lost its regular queues of customers waiting for seats when the café was forced to close during the pandemic, but now the roadmap means customers can enjoy their food inside.

Ian Robson, joint owner of the Magpie Café explained: “We are doing daily disinfectant fogging –  which stays on surfaces and lasts through the day, lots of extra sanitising as you go, hand sanitising stations for customers, screens between the tables where we can’t have them a long way apart – all these things help to make it a safer experience.

“We have a booking system and virtual queue, and a one way system in the restaurant as well – people coming in the front door, and exiting from the top floor out of the back of the building rather than back down through the restaurant. All these things make a difference – we want our customers to feel as secure as possible.

“On Monday we had someone in who has come up for 60 years – they were so glad to be back and they felt safe with the way we have things set up.  There’s plenty of good fresh sea air out there for everyone, we would just ask people to be considerate and accept that things are a bit different.”

North Yorkshire’s Council Leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “We have worked hard through the pandemic to ensure communities have remained safe and to get this level of support from the business community is a tremendous assistance.

“Businesses have been allowed to re-open on Government advice and in North Yorkshire they are working tirelessly to ensure both customers and their own staff remain safe while Covid-19 remains present and we as customers must play our part in following the guidance about staying safe.”