Shop Local: How to support independent Bristol as pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues reopen

Shop Local: How to support independent Bristol as pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues reopen

Posted on: 17 May 2021

It's still vital we all do what we can to ensure the survival of hundreds of Bristol businesses.


The time has finally come: indoor pubs, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues are officially reopening after almost six months of COVID-related closure.


As of today (Monday 17 May), new government guidelines state that people can meet outdoors in groups of up to 30, indoors in groups of up to six, stay overnight at someone's house other than their own and, most importantly, return to indoor hospitality venues.


This is obviously great news for Bristol businesses, but we've been here before, and we all know by now that guidance can change overnight. There's no guarantee we won't go back into lockdown or see new restrictions in the coming weeks.


Independent businesses across Bristol, from pubs and bars to restaurants and cafes, need your support now more than ever. Read on for a quick rundown of a few small changes you can make to give Bristol business the best chance of survival this summer.



Skip the chains!


You probably are missing a proper sit-down Nando's, or those £2.50 pints at Wetherspoons, but small, independent businesses are counting on your support right now. 


After well over a year of COVID-related closures and restrictions the threat of losing our favourite pubs, bars and restaurants is very real, and we'll all miss them when they're gone.


This isn't to say that chain restaurants aren't an important part of the local economy, rather that there are hundreds of brilliant Bristol independents located across the city that need to hit the ground running to stand any chance of staying open in the long run.


For the first few weeks at least, try to avoid those big multi-national restaurants and national chain pubs and think locally when you're planning those long-awaited first nights out.



Turn up to your bookings...


This seems like an obvious one, but if you book a table at a restaurant in the coming weeks, make sure you turn up. Restaurants across Bristol and the rest of the UK have been hit by a wave of no-shows since reopening, and these affect small restaurants more than you might think.


Upon reopening in summer 2020 after the first UK lockdown, Flipside Cocktail Club on Whiteladies Road reported that as many as 50% of their Saturday night bookings failed to turn up. More recently, in the weeks since pub gardens reopened, independents across Bristol have experienced similar issues.


It should go without saying, but at a time when restaurants are doing all they can to stay open during one of the most difficult economic periods in modern history, don't book a table and leave them hanging.


If, for any reason, you're no longer able to make a booking, simply contact the restaurant and let them know in advance.



...and don't be put off if you're asked for a deposit


In response to an onslaught of no-shows, several independents have been forced to establish deposit schemes with their bookings, requiring customers to put down a small, refundable fee to reduce the risk of people not turning up.


Obviously, given the choice, restaurants would choose not to require deposits, because doing so can discourage people from booking. Be aware that in a lot of cases, with so many people declining to turn up with no prior warning, owners have had no viable alternative.


If you're looking to book a table at one of your favourite restaurants, don't be put off if they ask for a deposit. You'll get it back, and it means that in the long run, independents get that much-needed extra sense of security ahead of service.

Restaurant bookings. Image: ResDiary

Be patient and polite with venue staff


This should be another obvious one for most of us, but venues and venue teams have spent weeks preparing for your return, and while they'll certainly be glad to be open, they're still dealing with the huge financial impact of the pandemic.


With so much else to worry about, the last thing independents need are rude, impatient or impolite customers making service that bit more difficult, so please be considerate during your visit to play your part in making the reopening process as smooth as possible.

Table service in operation. Image: Thekla

Follow safety rules


While it appears that the end of the pandemic is now in sight, we're not there yet, and there are still a range of safety measures in place across hospitality and entertainment venues to minimise risk of transmission among customers and staff.


You'll still be required to wear a mask unless seated and avoid mixing with people outside your group, but you should be used to that by now. Do what you can to play your part in keeping your visit as safe as possible.


Don't be that person who kicks off about wearing a mask or gets too pissed and tries to order from the bar - you know how it works by now, and the rules aren't difficult to follow.

Safety measures in place. Image: Smoke & Mirrors

Consider adding a tip to your bill, or bring some cash along with you


Remember cash? It's been a long time since we've had any actual money in our pockets, with notes and coins largely replaced by pin codes and contactless card payments in a collective bid to limit the spread of coronavirus.


Cash was slowly on the way out before the crisis hit, but for safety reasons an increasing number of pubs, restaurants and other businesses are opting to go cashless to reduce risk from the exchange of physical money.


So what does this mean for hospitality staff?


Independents across Bristol have reported a drastic drop in customer tips over the course of the pandemic, a result of the public being less inclined to carry cash and being unaware or unwilling to ask about alternative methods to pay a service charge.


If you've enjoyed your drinks, or been given great service, be sure to ask your server about the best ways to offer a tip. Some won't accept cash, but there's no reason why you can't add an extra fiver to your bill when you're paying on a card.

Consider leaving a tip.

Consider switching to the BARBI App for takeaway orders


Even after such a long period of lockdown, some people may be happy to stay at home, or may be feeling apprehensive about returning to normal before the virus has been fully brought under control.


If you're ordering a takeaway in the coming weeks, consider using the BARBI App, a new platform built for Bristol hospitality, by Bristol hospitality that offers drastically reduced commission fees for independent restaurants.


Head to the BARBI App website to find out more and download today.



Main Image: Thekla

Read more:



Article by:

Matt Robson


Editor - & LOUD Magazine

Matt is a Journalism graduate and writer, passionate about supporting Bristol music, art and independent business. Get in touch via email at