The reopening of outside spaces last week has to be viewed in a positive light, and as “a marker on the roadmap to recovery”, said Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality.

Speaking during MCA’s The Conversation yesterday (19 April), she said there had been a shift in customer confidence in returning to pubs and restaurants following the latest lockdown, compared to last summer, with guests more confident about visiting venues this time round and wanting to be back out and socialising.

“People have come back and accepted the restrictions in place and by and large reopening went off without a hitch,” she said. Adding that while there was still a long way to go, “it’s onwards and upwards”.

However Nicholls repeated Punch Pubs CEO Clive Chesser’s comments last week while reopening of hospitality last week is hugely important from a psychological perspective, economically it is not viable until the sector can fully reopen.

“The economics don’t work for everybody – it’s only going to work for certain locations and certain numbers of covers that allow people to open successfully,” she said.

For many businesses it has been valued as the chance to reconnect with their local community and customers, she said, “and more importantly to get teams back to work and to start that process of training teams ahead of reopening indoors from 17 May”.

She noted recent data that has suggested it has been much harder for food-led venues as the weather has meant that in the evenings especially guests have not wanted to stay for more than an hour or two outside as it gets too cold.

On the subject of confusion by local authorities on the requirements around outdoor structures and the spacing of guests, Nicholls said UKHospitality has been working through issues on a case by case basis, and that it has fed back to government that the sooner guidance can be published the better, but she added that “the indoor, outdoor debate will be one that continues to fascinates local authorities”.