The rule of six: Legal obligations on food and drink businesses in England


Whilst we have very quickly become familiar with the “rule of six”, regulations come in to force today placing a further legal obligation on businesses in England that serve food for consumption on the premises to ensure that, save for in limited exceptions, bookings of more than six people are not accepted.

From Friday 18 September you MUST take all reasonable measures to ensure that:

No bookings for a table of more than six people are accepted unless all the people in the gathering are from the same household, or are members of two households which are linked households in relation to each other. In these circumstances it will be up to the customer to satisfy you that this exemption applies.

Where groups of more than six are allowed then you should keep and retain a record of this you must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that:

  • No person from one group “mingles” with any other persons from another group – in practical terms we take this to mean that a table should only socialise with members of their own group whilst on your premise
  • An “appropriate distance” is maintained between tables occupied by different qualifying groups
  •  An appropriate distance means a distance between tables of at least 2 metres or at least 1 metre if there are barriers of screens between tables
  • The tables are arranged with back to back seating or arranged so that people sitting at one table do not face people sitting at another table.
  • Other measures are taken to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus between people sitting at different tables. In practical terms this could be an instruction to customers when they arrive, public signage around the premises or guidance left on tables and/or on menus/drinks list

Breach of the regulations may result in prosecution or a fine (£1000 for the first fine rising to £2000 on a second and £4000 for a third offence)

These regulations remain in force until 17 September 2021 and will be reviewed before the 18 March 2021

You will need to take the following steps:

  • Ensure that those members of your staff who take bookings are familiar, and comply, with the above regulations (a record of the instruction given to staff members should be retained)
  • That any on line booking system is modified to avoid the possibility of tables of more than 6 being booked (or that instruction is provided on the online booking form that groups of more than 6 will need to provide evidence that they are from one household or linked households)
  • Ensure that tables are appropriately distanced from one another
  • Have signage instructions to customers advising that they should only socialise with members of their own group and should avoid social contact with other groups

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at 15 September 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.


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