Converting your restaurant, cafe or pub into a retail space

By Phil Scoble


If you run a food or hospitality business, and are finding it hard to adjust to the new reality then transforming your premises into a retail outlet is one solution. We’ve seen caterers and food professionals use it to boost their business during this unprecedented time.

But what do you need to consider when turning your business from hospitality to retail?

Check out these tips:

1: Planning 

Under the current, incredible, circumstances, Government guidance is to ‘relax’ planning and health and safety guidance for food operators. This was mainly aimed at helping food businesses become takeaways and food delivery companies. But it does mean changing from a food-serving business to a retail establishment could also be an option for many.

Even under normal circumstances, changing your public house (Class A4) or takeaway (Class A5) into a retail space is allowed. However a planning application would normally have to be made. Changing a cafe or coffee shop (Class A3) into a retail space (Class A1) is allowed normally without planning permission being needed if no major building work is required to achieve the conversion. 

What this means is if you add a retail aspect to your business, and after the crisis has ended, decide to continue, you may have to inform the planning and health authorities, so do bear that in mind…

2: Meeting Government Guidance

You must make sure that the retail items on sale fall within the guidelines for an “essential” business. These are: food retailers, pharmacies, hardware stores, corner shops, petrol stations, shops in hospitals, post offices, banks, newsagents, laundrettes and pet shops.

Selling anything outside of these narrow bands could result in your new business being frowned upon, as it could be seen to encourage people to break the lockdown rules. 

But there are a number of initiatives to help local businesses change to become local shops, such as the ‘My Pub’ scheme.

The simplest way to start building your retail experience is to look at the suppliers you already have – could you simply sell-on what they already bring you? Meat, vegetables, any foodstuffs, could be sold. Talk to your suppliers to see what else they could supply. One of the best things about changing your business model is you could be supporting more than just your own business; your suppliers have also been hit hard, and you could help them too.

3: Equipment

If you want to store foodstuffs safely, but make them easy for customers to get to, look at display refrigeration – multi-decks (open fridges customers can just reach into to grab what they want) and stand up fridges and freezers with glass doors are the most popular for us. 

For frozen food, often a large chest freezer can be a good, cost effective option, as you can fit a lot in it and they are very energy efficient.

Making sure you have enough stock can be tricky, especially when you aren’t sure when you’ll get your next delivery, so think about some larger scale refrigeration perhaps away from customers – we’ve even seen some cold rooms delivered in the last few weeks, if premises don’t have the size for larger units.


If adding a retail option could allow your business to reopen, then just a few pieces of equipment, and making sure you fall within the rules, is all you need to get up and running – good luck! 

As ever, we’d also remind you to look after your staff and look after yourself: If you or your staff begin to exhibit symptoms, follow the Government advice.

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