May 13, 2020 / 1:01 PM / 24 days ago

Britain's M&S to reopen cafes for takeaway as lockdown eases

LONDON, May 13 (Reuters) - British retailer Marks & Spencer will begin to reopen its cafes to offer takeaway hot drinks, it said on Wednesday as the country tentatively began easing its coronavirus lockdown.

M&S, which operates at total of 420 cafes across the United Kingdom, said it will reopen 49 cafe locations from Thursday.

All its cafes have been closed since March 18, five days before the country went on lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.

The UK government is loosening restrictions only gradually, for fear of triggering a second peak of infections. As of Wednesday, people in manufacturing and certain other sectors were being asked to return to work.

The M&S clothing and home retail business in stores has been closed throughout the lockdown, but its food business has remained open.

All of the cafes reopening are located next to M&S food halls.

The group has installed perspex screens at each cafe till and only one staff member will work behind the counter. Signs and floor markings will remind customers about social distancing requirements and contactless payment will be encouraged.

Several other UK chains are also starting to emerge from the lockdown.

From Monday, Pret a Manger had more than 100 shops open for takeaway and delivery through third parties. Fast-food chain McDonalds opened 15 pilot restaurants in southeast England on Wednesday but is offering services only through delivery via Uber Eats. It plans to reopen an additional 30 restaurants in the UK and Ireland, offering services through the drive-through lane from May 20.

Coffee chain Starbucks will from Thursday begin a phased reopening of 150 of its drive-through locations and some takeaway-only stores. (Reporting by James Davey Editing by David Goodman )

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