- Nearly one-third of diners would leave a restaurant if asked to present their vaccine card or passport, according to a July Datassential report. Comparatively, two-thirds of diners would be open to wearing masks in dining rooms again if restaurants require it.
- Eighteen percent of diners would order takeout or delivery instead of dining in if faced with a mask requirement, and nearly the same percentage (19%) would do the same if an operator asked for proof of vaccine, per the research.
- Sixty percent of diners who do not plan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine would comply with mask restrictions to eat inside, but only 7% of this demographic say they would comply with vaccine requirements. This sentiment doesn't bode well for restaurants, as only 49% of people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.
Vaccination requirements, which some restaurants in major metros like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have put into place voluntarily, have quickly evolved from a hypothetical strategy to quell rising COVID-19 cases to government policy.
New York City on Tuesday became the first city to require proof of vaccinations for employees and customers at indoor dining establishments, as well as gyms and entertainment venues. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will seek input from local businesses on the mandate, called the "Key to NYC Pass," before it takes effect Aug. 16 and will be enforced Sept. 13.
The New York City Hospitality Alliance feels that this policy could ensure that the city "does not revert to restrictions and shut down orders that would again absolutely devastate small businesses that have not yet recovered from the pandemic," Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYCHA, said in an emailed statement.
"We know that a mandated vaccine requirement will pose economic and operational challenges to restaurants, particularly in communities with lower vaccination rates and hesitancy, however it will also alleviate the burden that restaurants and bars face when implementing this policy voluntarily," he said.
The National Restaurant Association, on the other hand, is concerned that the mandate will put "the responsibility for verifying vaccination status of employees and customers on the operator," Larry Lynch, senior vice president of science and industry for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. It also puts front-of-house employees at increased risk for inappropriate or violent behavior from guests who do not wish to comply with restaurant restrictions, Lynch said.
Vaccine mandates aren't the only obstacle to diner traffic, however. Datassential also found that 84% of diners who are concerned about the COVID-19 delta variant are continuing to cook more at home to avoid the virus, and 68% are continuing to order takeout instead of dining in.
With delta cases surging across the country, and given New York City's influence on the national restaurant industry, it's possible that other major municipalities will enact similar vaccine mandates of their own.
Washington City Paper reporter Laura Hayes tweeted Tuesday that when asked if Washington, D.C., would follow in New York City's footsteps, Mayor Muriel Bowser said, "I'm going to read all about it, see what they're going to do. ... The District is going to evaluate anything that works for D.C."