- Most restaurant operators (61%) don’t agree with President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for companies with at least 100 employees, a new report from Black Box Intelligence finds. The survey included 100 restaurant chain operators across six segments: QSR, fast casual, family, casual, upscale and fine dining.
- Sixteen percent of operators believe both their sales and traffic will decrease because of vaccine mandates, while 14% believe traffic will increase and 9% believe sales will increase. However, 52% believe guests will be more comfortable because of the directive.
- In addition to the federal policy targeting employees, more jurisdictions are adopting vaccination mandates for customers. Los Angeles is the latest major city to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining, joining San Francisco, New York, New Orleans and King County, Washington, in implementing similar requirements.
The Black Box Intelligence data underscores the struggles restaurant operators face as they contend with differing consumer and employee concerns about COVID-19 safety. Fifty-three percent of restaurant operators surveyed by Black Box believe vaccine mandates will make it harder to find new workers amid an already tight labor market. Fifty-nine percent believe employees will quit if forced to get the shot.
Restaurants have gotten creative to alleviate the shortage. Some chains have cut operational hours because there aren't enough employees to fill shifts, while Raising Cane's is tapping its corporate staff to work in its restaurants.
But these efforts may not be enough to offset attrition. Customer resistance to mask and vaccine mandates may also push some employees out of hospitality. According to a One Fair Wage report, 39% of restaurant workers were thinking of leaving their jobs because of customer hostility. Stories across the nation have cropped up as diners attack workers after being asked to put on a mask.
Restaurants also face a potential loss of consumers as they figure out how to navigate COVID-19 policies. Thirty percent of diners said they will leave a restaurant if asked for proof of vaccination, according to a report from Datassential. Another recent report found just 24% of consumers think vaccinations should be required to dine indoors.
Simultaneously, six in 10 U.S. adults have changed their dining plans because of the COVID-19 delta variant, according to the National Restaurant Association.
The Black Box Intelligence report reflects this tension. Most operators say they don't agree with the mandates, but 52% said they believe such mandates will make guests feel more comfortable.
Divergent responses to these regulations make it difficult for restaurant operators to appeal to all consumers at a time when any revenue is critical.
This litany of issues makes it hard attribute declining sales to any one factor. San Francisco restaurant owners blame their drop in sales to both mandates and the coronavirus delta variant. In Ohio, 71% of operators experienced declining sales from August to September, with the Ohio Restaurant Association citing the delta variant, mask and vaccine requirements as the drivers. In Oahu, Hawaii, sales at some restaurants dropped by as much as 50% after the state put its proof of vaccination policy into place. The island experienced a sharp drop in tourism because of the delta variant, which likely contributed to the decrease.