Posted: 16/07/2020

Compulsory face mask rule causes confusion for deli-cafés

Mixed reactions to face masks in shops ruling

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced that from 24th July, the wearing of face coverings or masks will be mandatory in supermarkets and shops in England.

Failure to wear face masks or coverings in shops and supermarkets could see the issuing of fines up to £100, when the requirement comes into full force. Although, according to the letter of the law, staff in shops are not required to wear masks.

The news has been met with mixed reactions from independent retailers and retail experts – with confusion over correct protocols for foodservice areas.

Ed Bevin, owner of St Albans deli-café The Fleetville Larder has been left confused by the new rules.

“Where do you stand if you’re a mix of retail and café?” he said. “My customers who are sat in the corner drinking their coffee, do they need to wear a mask too?”

Scott Winston, co-owner of The Camden Grocer told FFD: “There’s a dichotomy for me. Let’s say I go to London today. I get on the train in the morning and have to wear a face covering. I visit five shops and wear a covering. But then I’m going to sit down in a restaurant, which is equally dense with people, and I don’t wear a face covering.”

Winston added that this disparity between retail and foodservice was the reason he and fellow co-owner Matt Bunch had been holding off re-opening their café.

Matt Bunch added that the legal requirement for masks was a very welcome measure for the retail side of the business.

“Operationally it makes no difference for us – all our staff wore masks anyway before they announced this,” he said. “But, personally, seeing customers coming in wearing masks makes me feel a little more comfortable”

Retail expert Richard Knight of customer experience specialists Insight 6 has said that the decision will bring much-needed clarity to retail businesses and consumers.

He added: “The main hope from the decision is that it will raise customer confidence levels and, anecdotally from some research we are carrying out currently, we are hearing that it’s about a 50-50 split.”

Environment secretary George Eustice said this week that the requirement for face coverings would not be extended across hospitality venues because “obviously people have got to eat” in pubs and restaurants but did not extend this to combined foodservice retail operations.

Speaking to the Commons, the health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Sadly, sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis: The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher amongst men and 60% higher amongst women than in the general population.”

He added: “There is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop.”

Read the latest issue of Fine Food Digest here.

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