Published: 13:09, 07 July 2021
| Updated: 14:32, 07 July 2021
Opinion on whether table service in our pubs and bars should stay after the lifting of Covid restrictions has left the county divided - and the good news for many is that plenty of venues intend to keep it going.
After Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed earlier this week that social distancing and the wearing of masks are likely to be scrapped on July 19, we asked what you would think of the end of a very different form of service we can all become used to during the pandemic.
Phil Thorley is from Thanet-based Thorley Taverns
When pubs were reopened in April following the lockdown easing, all hostelries were told to offer table service to ensure social distancing could be observed.
It was a move welcomed by many who liked avoiding the queues at the bar, but has put added pressure on staff and forced many outlets to introduce apps - similar to those already used by the likes of pub giant Wetherspoon before the pandemic - allowing you to order and pay for food and drink to be delivered to your table, via your phone.
So we posed a question on the KentOnline Facebook page asking if you would like table service to stay - even when restrictions are lifted.
Publican Mike O'Regan of The Medway Inn in Wouldham, near Rochester, said: "As a pub owner, I think it's here to stay. Our great staff have adapted very well. Also our table ordering app makes it very easy to get service quickly."
Herne Bay's Andy Dawkins has been converted by the change, saying simply: "I absolutely love table service…very civilised."
"For me personally, I quite like it," said Ingrid Joyce. "I feel safer. This Covid is not going away any time soon. There is always going to be some variant but I get for hospitality it's not always practical so it depends what works for them so will just go with the flow.
"We do have to get back to some sort of normal life. It's been almost two years we have all lost in our lives."
But many pine for the return of ordering from the bar
"If you want to sit down and get served - go to a restaurant, says Paul Fantham. "Pubs are for standing at the bar. I hate sitting down in pubs."
Added Will Roberts: "Although it's a lot more chilled out environment when going for drinks with friends it's not ideal for big venues especially when it comes to the busy nights such as weekends.
"It's been suitable for the time but people need to be getting back up to the bar now! If places were to keep the table service only option could you imagine how slow the service will be especially when clubs re-open? It just wouldn't work."
Andy Selby added: "Personally think it should be an option, but can understand that some people prefer to come to the bar. We need to get back to having an atmosphere in our venues and giving our customers a choice is the key to keeping them happy."
Phil Thorley, operations director of Thanet-based pub chain Thorley Taverns, said it plans to continue table service, via its app, in its pubs and restaurants after July 19.
He explained: "A lot of our customers across our 19 venues have liked the table service in our pubs so we are going to maintain an element of that but we also have a large part of our customers in our community pubs who are looking forward to standing at the bar and having a pint again.
"We've all been on holiday abroad where they have table service so it's been really welcomed in a number of venues. But for many, it's the social interaction, which normally happens at the bar, which they have missed and they're very much looking forward to getting back to it.
"I think venues which don't offer it at all [when restrictions ease] risk people being put off from going. Giving people choice is what we've always done. We've adhered to all of the regulations with a smile on our face and some will stay. It's all a matter of choice."
Speaking to KentOnline earlier this year, Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame hinted table service could continue across its chain of pubs - in one form or another.
He said: "I think from a pub operational point of view, table service is something customers really like and while it may not be mandatory in the future, I'm sure many outlets may continue with it, particularly those that do a lot of food. And that has increased the quality of experience for many customers.
"Many others, of course, miss bar service."
It places an additional strain on the hospitality industry in terms of staffing to meet the order and deliver drinks - especially as it is currently facing a workforce shortage.
Angela Barlow added: "I work in a bingo hall and I'm sitting in the fence about this. I've worked the bar and it's been hectic as we still have orders coming via our touchpads and all need to be served. I've also worked the table service side, taking the orders and that can be a struggle on busy nights. But it does add a more personal friendly service."
What do you think? Take part in our poll, above, and give your opinion.
A final decision on July 19's easing of restrictions is expected on Monday, July 12.