Rather than attempting to look for certainty in government reopening announcements, operators would be better advised to prepare based on their own judgement, MCA’s The Conversation has heard.

Speaking at the event, Burger King UK CEO Alasdair Murdoch said that restaurants should not wait for government guidance before planning for reopening, because it’s unlikely any real clarity will be given.

“We look for certainty in these announcements, and they come out and you never get [it],” he said. “So, we shouldn’t get too frustrated by that lack of certainty. We should just try and work within it.”

“That doesn’t mean say do anything wrong, but you’re not going to get total clarity because people are making this up on the hoof. You have to use your best judgement and normally your best judgement is going to be absolutely right.”

With this in mind, Murdoch said that Burger King will begin reopening its estate for eat-in as soon as it’s given the green light to do so, and it’s therefore planning to initiate a phased test and learn reopening strategy from 4 July.

With just under 300 stores currently operating for delivery and takeaway, he said the initial eat-in reopening will be comparatively small-scale, but it won’t be too long before it is rolled out across the estate.

“We will open the first day that we can,” he said. “We’ll open 10 or so and develop those, and then in every different phase of the operation we will try and write an operational playbook to use with our franchisees and all of our restaurants to make sure that we get it right.”

“Whatever comes next week we’ll be ready for it.”

One area where this operator judgement may be needed is in the use of PPE for staff, explained UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls.

She said that according to the government’s list of infection control measures, PPE including masks and gloves come “quite far down the hierarchy,” and that unless it was worn prior to lockdown, it shouldn’t necessarily be needed when businesses reopen.

Although the guidance does reference the use of face coverings if it makes staff feel safer, she added, “but I don’t think they are going to be obligatory.”

“The government doesn’t want to mandate that, it will down to operators to make those decisions themselves.

“It is quite challenging for operators because it isn’t going to be clear cut. They’re going to have to make the best decision based on their earnings, style of trading, ventilation, and the size and scale of other control measures that they are putting in place.”