COVID-19 Reopening: Update for Australia, Canada, UK and US

Restaurants and cafes are starting to open (with restrictions) in many places.
Restaurants and cafes are starting to open (with restrictions) in many places.

May 13 2020 - The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has hit the hospitality industry hard. Since March, most venues have had to close their doors and stop serving dine-in customers. In recent weeks, talk of reopening has been top of mind for many food business owners but the reality of what that looks like is very different depending on where you are in the world.


At the time of writing, 29 states have permitted some form of reopening for restaurants and cafes. Regulations and guidelines vary greatly state to state, and even county to county. In almost all locations, bars have been ordered to remain closed. Regulations in the US are changing rapidly and frequently so be sure to check state and county guidelines for the region in which you operate.

To date, states that are allowing restaurants to reopen at a reduced capacity (anywhere between 25 and 50 percent regular capacity) include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Other states have decided to go for an outdoor dining only model for the time being. This includes Connecticut, Louisiana, New Hampshire and West Virginia.

Two states have reopened and are recommending - but not enforcing - social/physical distancing measures. These are South Carolina and South Dakota.

The remainder of the states don’t have a capacity limit but are mandating social/physical distancing. States following this model are California, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon.

All other states not mentioned remain under lockdown orders.


The UK has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The UK government has released a reopening strategy document which indicated that ‘some’ hospitality businesses (food service providers, pubs and accommodation are mentioned in the document) may be able to open no earlier than July 4. However, no further information was provided about what ‘some’ means or what restrictions would be in place for reopening.

With no clear end in site for dine-in restrictions, multiple businesses such as Marks & Spencers cafes, Pret a Manger, McDonalds and Caffe Nero are starting to reopen for a takeaway only model instead. Deliveries and takeaways have been allowed to operate throughout the entire COVID-19 crisis.


The Canadian provinces and territories have a somewhat varied approach to reopening and are all implementing plans with different stages, phases or alert levels.

Manitoba and New Brunswick are the only two provinces currently open for hospitality businesses. However, restrictions are in place for both provinces. Manitoba is currently permitting outdoor dining only and New Brunswick has strict regulations on physical distancing and hygiene standards.

Alberta and British Columbia have both announced plans to reopen food businesses, albeit with restrictions, from mid-May but no firm date has been set in either province at the time of writing. Saskatchewan, Newfoundland & Labrador and Prince Edward Island aren’t too far behind with anticipated reopening dates of sometime in June.

Quebec and Ontario - the two provinces worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic - don’t have any suggested dates for reopening cafes and restaurants as yet. All other provinces and territories haven’t yet announced reopening plans or information for hospitality businesses.


Australia has the most uniform approach of all countries featured. On May 8th, the Australian government announced a 3-stage reopening plan. The stages are fixed but state governments can decide when to move to each stage.

Under Stage 1, cafes and restaurants are allowed to open and seat up to 10 patrons at any one time, provided they can ensure four square metres of space per person. Food courts will remain closed for seated patrons, and bars and clubs are not permitted to open.

Stage 2 has similar rules, however hospitality businesses may set up to 20 patrons at any one time. Food courts, bars and clubs will remain closed.

Stage 3 is not entirely finalised yet and will “become clearer as we move through the first two steps” according to the Prime Minister, but indicates that up to 100 patrons can be seated at any one time. At Stage 3, bars, clubs and food courts will be permitted to open.

So far, South Australia is the first state to move to Stage 1 and hospitality businesses have been open for dine-in guests since Monday May 11. Most other states (Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Western Australia) are all set to move to Stage 1 between now and next Monday May 18.

Victoria is the only state holding out on moving to Stage 1 and has confirmed that cafes and restaurants must remain closed throughout all of May. However, Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated that when businesses do reopen they may be able to move straight to Stage 2 - although this is as yet unconfirmed.