French cafe culture

5 things that will change in cafes and restaurant under new lockdown rules in France

Women wearing protective face masks walk past a Paris restaurant, which remain closed after France began slowly lifting confinement measures on 11 May.
Women wearing protective face masks walk past a Paris restaurant, which remain closed after France began slowly lifting confinement measures on 11 May. REUTERS - Gonzalo Fuentes

In his address to the nation on May 28, French prime minister, Edouard Philippe, told France:  "Deconfinement should enable us to resume a normal life." One of the key elements of 'normal' life of France is cafes, bar and restaurants. So, what will happen in the coming weeks? Here are five things to keep in mind.


"In view of health developments, restaurants, bars and cafés will be able to reopen in all departments from June 2, but they will open with temporary restrictions in those in the Orange Zones," Philippe said.  As a result, only the terraces of restaurants will be able to open in the "Orange departments", notably those of Ile-de-France, including Paris, French Guiana and Mayotte.

This is good news for the restaurant and hotel sector, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. However, to welcome their customers back, professionals in the sector will have to comply with strict health protocols.

The employers' union GNI-HCR, which represents the self-employed in the hotel and catering industry, proposed a deconfinement protocol on May 22 to go beyond legal obligations and standardize practices and reassure employees and customers. So, what will happen in your local French café or restaurant?

1. No 'room service' outside green zones

All the terraces will be able to reopen. In the Orange Zones, these will be the only areas allowed in bars, cafés and restaurants from Tuesday, June 2. The aim is to boost activity, while minimising the health threat.

The risk of propagation of the virus is lower than in an enclosed space. Customers will be able to find, at least partially in the orange zone, the food service areas. The same sanitary measures will have to be applied on the terrace or in the dining room.  

2. Wearing a mask will be mandatory

"Wearing masks will be made compulsory for all staff in the dining room and kitchen and for customers when they are on the move," the prime minister said. The wearing of masks will therefore be compulsory for both waiters and customers.

The protection can be removed during a drink or a meal. But it will have to be worn when entering the establishment, going to the toilet or when paying the bill.

3. One meter distance between each table

After much negotiation, the sector obtained that the spacing between customers of different tables be one metre. Single customers will therefore have a space of one square metre and not four, as is the case in groups of people.

4. Tables limited to 10 guests

"People who have chosen to dine or have lunch together will be able to sit at the same table up to a maximum capacity of 10 per table," said Edouard Philippe. The tables will, as a result, be limited to groups of 10 guests.

In accordance with the previous rule, a space will have to be reserved between these tables. A measure that will not delight restaurateurs as it will necessarily reduce the number of possible customers.

5. Consumption ‘standing indoors’ is prohibited

In bars, "we will ask operators not to allow drinking standing up inside", added Edouard Philippe. So, you will have to be seated at a table to be able to consume. Will this measure apply to counters where people can eat in highchairs?


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