RESTAURANT bosses are afraid of clamping down on customers breaking the rules because they don’t want to become the “social distancing police”.

Restaurant and cafe owners are struggling to tell people off for flouting distancing advice, but insist the majority are complying with the rules.

They have also urged more people to continue visiting because confidence among consumers is still “very low.”

It is hoped the new Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which opened yesterday, will entice more customers to restaurants with 50 per cent reductions of up to £10 per diner.

Southend Standard:

Boss - Steve Haslam

Steve Haslam, the director of TLC Inns, which owns Burger Brats in Basildon and restaurants across Essex, told the Echo 99 per cent of his customers want to sit outside to eat and not come inside at all.

He said: “We don’t want to be the social distancing police.

“Confidence is very low at the moment, and that will affect business in the long term.

“We don’t want to be telling people off all the time. If confidence doesn’t improve, it leaves you pretty dormant inside, which will be difficult in the winter.”

Antony Tomassi, the owner of Tomassi’s in Southend High Street, said it was difficult to be strict while wearing a mask, with staff raising their hands and using gestures to keep people apart.

He said: “Most of our customers are sticking to it, but some don’t. I think they forget you still have to do it. We don’t want to police it all the time.

“The virus hasn’t gone away but we need to build up people’s confidence. Our trade is picking up but we’re only running at two thirds capacity.

“Customers are being reassured and once they come out, I think they stay out.

“We’re signing up for the new scheme. It’s a really good idea and I really hope it helps, we really need it.”

James Duddridge, MP for Southend East and Rochford, welcomed the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, saying: “The hospitality sector is so important to our town and it has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Registration is easy, therefore I would encourage our eateries to sign up to this unique initiative.”