- Half of restaurant operators plan to encourage and provide incentives for their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a survey from BlackBox Intelligence. Thirty-nine percent plan to encourage vaccinations, but not provide incentives. Just 5% will not require or encourage vaccination among employees, while 6% have not finalized their plans yet.
- About one-third of the operators planning incentives are doing so with a one-time cash payment, while about 5% are paying for the cost of the vaccine, and over 10% are offering more time off. A majority of those providing incentives plan to do so in "other" ways. Fifty-three percent of companies are offering their employees paid-time off to get the vaccine.
- Once their employees are vaccinated, most companies (75%) do not plan to change the safety protocols they have put into place during the pandemic. A nominal percentage of operators said they will no longer require their employees to wear masks or socially distance.
More than two-thirds of the U.S. population would get vaccinated if they are compensated, according to a survey from Blackhawk Ventures. This explains why several major chains are encouraging and incentivizing their employees to get the vaccine. McDonald's announced in early February that it is paying corporate employees and workers at company-owned restaurants to receive the vaccine. Noodles & Company and Darden are offering paid-time off for their employees to get vaccinated, while Chipotle said it will pay for costs associated with the vaccine. First Watch and Shake Shack are also paying workers to get vaccinated.
A more vaccinated population doesn't automatically mean consumers will come sprinting back to restaurants, however. New research from Morning Consult finds that 44% of adults feel safe dining out at restaurants, which is down from 51% in February.
What may be reassuring to the public is that COVID-19-induced safety protocols will remain in place for the foreseeable future. All of the limited-service companies surveyed by Black Box said their vaccinated employees will still be required to wear masks, and all full-service restaurants said vaccinated employees still be required to social distance.
This notion is supported by several companies, including McDonald's and Starbucks, that have kept their mask and distancing guidelines in place in the wake of states like Texas, Mississippi and Massachusetts opening dining rooms at 100% capacity.
It's unclear if those attitudes will change once most consumers are vaccinated, however. As of Thursday, just over 22% of the U.S. population is vaccinated, with over 2.4 million shots being administered daily. However, 25% of Americans said they are unwilling to be vaccinated, which could present a roadblock toward full recovery, particularly as the CDC has implicated on-site dining as a cause of rising COVID-19 illnesses and deaths.
What is clear is that restaurants, particularly chains that rely heavily on dine-in business, are optimistic about a vaccinated population driving their recovery. During Starbucks' January earnings call, for example, CEO Kevin Johnson said as vaccinations increase globally, the company expects its in-store business to improve. During Dine Brands's Q4 call, CEO John Peyton said the company is expecting a rebound during the latter half of the year largely due to increases in vaccination rates.