- Twenty-four percent of U.S. consumers think vaccinations should be required to dine indoors at a restaurant, according to a July report from Gartner. Twenty-eight percent believe proof of vaccination should be required to enter a bar or nightclub.
- Comparatively, a majority of consumers believe vaccinations should be required to travel on an airplane (60%), travel on a cruise (59%) and work in a healthcare setting (58%).
- Last week, Union Square Hospitality Group announced it will require all guests to show proof of being fully vaccinated. As the COVID-19 delta variant surges across the country, some restaurants and bars in major cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and Philadelphia are following suit.
This is likely just the starting point of returning or new restrictions at restaurants, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found contributed to increased rates of COVID-19 spread and related deaths.
Illinois and New York City are expected to announce new mask requirements, for example, and dining room capacity limits could be next. U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday on ABC's "This Week," however, that the country will not lock down a second time to stem COVID-19 spread. This is welcome news for full-service restaurants that made significant operational changes to survive 2020's lockdowns, but there are still a myriad of challenges ahead.
Disparate policies, not just by jurisdiction but from restaurant to restaurant, could cause confusion among customers and rising cases in general could scare away diners. Reinstating mask mandates or implementing vaccination mandates could also turn off service workers, who are leaving the industry at record rates.
Much of this exodus is connected to COVID-19 safety concerns and the harassment these employees face when asking diners to comply with safety protocols, according to a One Fair Wage report. As of July 27, 2021, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found that half of the 10 largest confirmed COVID-19 workplace outbreaks in the county are at hospitality settings, for example.
The debate over returning restrictions has reached a fever pitch in some markets. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, issued an order forbidding mask mandates in public schools. One California restaurant is only allowing unvaccinated customers into its business.
Still, as more restaurants choose to implement a vaccination mandate, this trend could encourage consumers to get their shots. As of now, just under 50% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.