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Brits celebrate return to the buffet

Millions of Britons have been enjoying eased lockdown restrictions this week with many heading to restaurants to enjoy indoor dining for the first time this year.

Stoic Brits had been dining in wind and rain since April, when restaurants reopened with restricted features,  but they can now enjoy dinner inside with the welcome return of buffets at restaurants across England and Wales.

Thousands took to social media yesterday to share snaps of their dinners at Pizza Hut, Toby Carvery, and Harvester, among others, but the buffets aren’t quite as simple as the serve yourself free-for-all it was before the pandemic. 

Thousands took to social media yesterday to share snaps of their dinners at Pizza Hut, Toby Carvery, and Harvester, among others, but the buffets aren’t quite as simple as the serve yourself free-for-all it was before the pandemic. Pictured a Toby Harvester dinner

Mouthwatering shots showed the dishes being served across the nation, with people taking to social media to share their delight and relief to get a restaurant quality meal indoors. Pictured a pizza hut pizza

Mouthwatering shots showed the dishes being served across the nation, with people taking to social media to share their delight and relief to get a restaurant quality meal indoors.

Pizza Hut, famed for their all you can eat lunchtime buffet, stopped customers from queuing at the salad and buffet bar at the start of the pandemic.

But now their all-you-can-eat feast is making a return, alongside the ice cream factory.

But to keep in line with social distancing, the chain will ask customers to order their pizza via an app, with staff bringing the treats to the table.  

 ‘From Monday May 17th, our unlimited favourites are back on the menu but reimaged to enable social distancing,’ a Pizza Hut spokesperson saod/

One delighted Instagram user said they’d been to Toby Carvery twice in a day showing off a roast dinner plate

Another fan wrote ‘it’s so good to be INSIDE pubs’ as she shared a snap of Toby Carvery’s offerings

‘Customers will be able to enjoy our “Bluffet” offering a great range of pizza and salads ordered via your mobile phone and served to your table.

‘Our new “Ice Cream Builder” enables you to create your own masterpiece, with ice-cream, sauce and sweets brought to you. Essentially we have recreated Pizza Hut’s great value and unlimited icons at the same time as launching exciting new ordering technology putting the guest in control.’

When they reopened in summer, Pizza Hut too introduced an app where customers order and pay on the phone, minimising interaction with staff.

Ordering from your mobile phone is a practice already used in other settings, such as Wetherspoon, and is one surefire way to avoid unnecessary contact.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe have also introduced online ordering, meaning customers will scan a QR code and order their meal through their website. 

Another diner in Essex opted for a lighter option of a croissant and coffee for their breakfast

In Cheshire a diner shared a shot of their charcoal burgers with plenty of chips as they dined out

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan joined Drag Race star Bimini Bon Boulash at cult vegan restaurant Mildred’s

Cue Point in Chiswick, west London welcomes diners back to a Afghan-Guyanese British fusion with many delighted diners enjoying the smoked meat 

Tacos were enjoyed by diners in Peterborough who said they were ‘so excited to be back’

In central London diners enjoyed a healthy option at ChoppaLuna salad bar

What can people in England do from May 17? 

Can I still meet people outside?

Yes. You will now be able to meet in groups of up to 30 people outside. Bigger groups will be illegal. Until May 17, you can still only meet outside in groups of six.

A member of bar staff wearing a face masks serves drink in a pub in East London in July 2020

Can you sit inside a pub again?

Yes, indoor hospitality will resume – so you can sit inside a pub or restaurant with people from other households, as long as the rule of six (or two households) is met.

Will there be a substantial meal or curfew requirement for pubs?

No. As with step two on April 12, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks; nor will there be a curfew.

An audience sit at the Pavilion theatre in Weymouth for a pantomime in December last year

Will you be able to stand at the bar?

No. Customers will still have to order, eat and drink while seated at a hospitality venue – even though they will now be allowed inside.

Will indoor entertainment venues now be allowed to reopen?

Yes. Cinemas, theatres, museums and indoor children’s play areas will all be allowed to reopen, but must follow guidelines on social distancing and face masks.

Concert halls, conference centres and sports stadia will also be allowed to reopen, with larger events in all venues able to resume with capacity limits (see below). 

Will venues face capacity limits?

Yes. Larger performances and sporting events will be capped in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is a lower number. For outdoor venues the cap will be 4,000 people or half-full – again, whichever is lower.

In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend – or a quarter-full, whichever is lower.

Football fans at Wembley Stadium at a pilot event for the FA Cup semi-final last month 

Will social distancing and face masks rules remain for now?

Yes. The one-metre (3ft) rule remains in place in public settings such as pubs, shops and restaurants. You should wear a face mask when walking around these places. 

Paying by card is another initiative that most shops are currently pushing at the moment in order to avoid the handling of cash.

Deliveroo has launched an in-restaurant feature for its partners too.

The in-app function enables customers to browse the menu, order and pay at a restaurant via the Deliveroo app, making it easier for customers to visit and eat in at restaurants while maintaining social distancing. 

Prezzo will also have digital ordering from a smartphone or tablet using the QR code displayed on each table with the restaurants going cashless.

Customers can settle their bill using Apple Pay or Android Pay, contactless or Chip and PIN. 

Also famed for their buffet is Toby Carvery and their sister brand Harvester.

Toby Carvery usually offers roast dinners where diners can help themselves to the likes of roast beef, potatoes and veg, while Harvester is popular for its salad bar.

Now customers will be able to visit carving deck or salad bar but will need to tell staff what they want.

A spokesperson for Mitchell and Butlers, who own the chain, said: ‘All guests will be required to either scan the NHS Test and Trace app or share details with a host when visiting.

‘We’ll continue to operate table service and guests will need to remain seated in the restaurant.

‘Guests can still visit the deck to personalise their carvery just how they like it, however a team member will serve them from the deck for the time being.

‘Face coverings are to be worn and social distancing to be adhered to by guests when moving around the restaurant.

‘We’ll continue to keep the restaurant safe with social distancing measures in the restaurant and at the carvery deck.

 ‘In line with the Government initiative, all team members are being encouraged to take part in the lateral flow testing process twice a week.’

Thousands of other restaurants have also reopened with heightened safety measures.

Marks & Spencer have reopened their cafes with saftey measures in place including all customers dining track and trace, rule of six, and tables cleaned and sanitised after each use.  

On top of this, they will replace cake dome-lids every 30 minutes.  

Elsewhere, Franco Manca has introduced new ‘Sourdough On The Go’ items to its Borough Market menu, taking inspiration from Italian street food classics for diners on the go so customers who don’t want to dine in have more options. 

wagamama has also reopened 120 of its UK restaurants for safe return to dine-in.

The pan Asian restaurant had reopened 83 restaurants for outdoor dining on 12th April but now in line with the Prime Minister’s pandemic roadmap 120 will be open for inside dining.    

High-quality Perspex screens have also been installed at all counters, with designated pick-up points for mobile order collections at Costa, while customers visiting a Costa Coffee Drive-Thru sites will see a bespoke one of a kind serving hatch has been installed (specifically designed for Costa Coffee) to ensure customers can collect their order with no contact.

These cleverly designed hatches, which lower items from the service hatch down to customer’s vehicles, have a built-in acrylic hygiene screen to provide maximum protection for both customers and Costa Coffee team members.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a London Eats campaign to celebrate the very best culinary delights central London has to offer, as he had breakfast Food and drink recommendations can be heard across the Tube network

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