What Vaccinating Restaurant Staff Means For Your Operation
In early November, the world was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the first coronavirus vaccine was announced. Since then, more vaccines have been approved, with even more still in development. The National Restaurant Association has campaigned to prioritize restaurant workers as front line workers impacted by the pandemic. Vaccinating restaurant staff is a great start to recovery, which has already evoked rising market shares for quick service and fast-casual restaurants. Still, how will vaccinating restaurant staff impact your business today, tomorrow, and beyond?
Give Me The Cure
As with any new medication, there has been some trepidation from people concerned with the side effects. There are three types of vaccines available right now, mRNA vaccines, protein subunit vaccines, and vector vaccines. Each vaccination has a different makeup but with the same goal: to train your immune system to reject the coronavirus. Common side effects are pain, swelling, and discomfort, although as with all medicines, mileage will vary from person to person.
How Vaccinations Will Be Administered
In the U.S., President Joe Biden has announced a plan to vaccinate 100 million citizens in 100 days. The current population in the United States is 330M. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, has announced that at least 70-85% of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, which is where the pandemic has been mitigated to the point of public safety. Hitting that target in the U.S. should happen in the fall, while herd immunity will take longer globally.
For restaurateurs, early inoculation protects your workers from potential harm. Having early access to vaccination allows the restaurant industry to tackle the logistical problems that may come from the vaccine’s side effects. For example, if the side effects may make someone fatigued for a day or two, you can work to schedule times for your staff during the traditionally slower months of the year. Unfortunately, the vaccinating restaurant staff is only one half of the equation, as your guests will still present a health risk to one another. Let’s look at how that may affect your operation throughout the vaccination process.
Stage One: Pre-Vaccination
For the most part, we’re at the stage of pre-vaccination on a global scale. It varies from country-to-country, so vaccine rollouts aren’t at all universal. Even in wealthy countries with a healthy medical infrastructure, it may still take a little time to ensure that herd immunity is reached. Because of that, it’s worth reflecting on what we’ve learned and how that can apply going forward to the restaurant industry. Keep this in mind as we move forward, as the lessons of today will apply tomorrow.
Stage Two: Post-Staff Vaccination
While it’s still uncertain how the vaccine will roll out, it’s clear that it will vary from place-to-place. Whether it’s now or later, vaccinating restaurant staff before the general public will positively affect your employees. Still, your operation will likely continue as it had before. Keep in mind that there are a few variables to consider here:
- Are your guests vaccinated?
- Can vaccinated people still spread the virus, even if they are immune to it?
As this is still a new process, these answers will likely change with time with one of several new vaccines. What can be certain, though, is your response in a post-staff vaccination, pre-herd immunity world.
In all likelihood, capacity maximums will remain in place until a community herd immunity can take place. As we’ve learned in the past, the pandemic operated in waves, with the warmer months serving as a needed respite from surges in the virus. During those viral lulls, many places worldwide fluctuated their public safety measures, easing restrictions when possible. It’s probable then that those seating maximums will shift to correspond with the overall immunity. For example, if you’re currently at ¼ maximum seating, that may rise to ⅓ as a higher percentage of the public receive vaccinations.
In the meantime, tools like restaurant operational platforms are useful to mitigate the flow of incoming traffic. With the front-of-house technologies, you can require guests to get on a waitlist or reservation before coming in, limiting the incoming traffic. As the season warms, you can expand to outdoor seating to fill in the gaps safely. Until then, you may consider enhancing your curbside service, transforming your parking lot into your dining room.
The premise behind vaccine passports is simple: vaccinated individuals can move more freely in previously restricted spaces by showing their credentials. In doing so, the idea is that you open up more and more of a return to normalcy as the population of potential guests increases.
At the moment, there are concerns over the equity of vaccine passports, but if they are introduced into the public, this may open up space for some restaurants to increase their total volume of guests. Time will tell if this idea is feasible, given the logistical hurdles of producing fraud-resistant evidence of immunity passports. Keep this in mind as we progress through 2021 and beyond, however, as a potential portal to increasing your numbers.
The Post-Pandemic Restaurant
The good news: the restaurant industry will persevere from the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the likelihood of another pandemic is high. In turn, scientific evidence supports the conclusion that climate change and infectious diseases are inherently relative. This isn’t to promote doom and gloom but emphasize preparedness in girding your future operation by learning from the past.
Propping Up Off-Premise Orders
While the winter promises to be a challenge, off-premise dining has proven invaluable to operators, and that trend looks to continue far into the foreseeable future. It’s likely that you already have an off-premise dining strategy, but increasing your speed of service is crucial to serving guests quickly and efficiently. With an integrated restaurant platform, you can connect your back-and-front-of-house to ensure that the right meal goes out to the right guest. Through features like tag-on-touch, your restaurant staff can mark off items individually while ensuring quality control. By utilizing an off-premise order aggregator, you can direct outgoing meals by destination, whether that’s delivery, carryout, or curbside.
Masks and mask culture will likely continue beyond the pandemic as a simple and effective tool that many have acclimated to prevent basic seasonal illnesses. Finally, contactless technologies are easy to institute, provide safe alternatives, and convenient for customers. Keep these innovations in mind as we wait for a return to some form of normalcy.
Vaccinating restaurant staff now or later is only one step in the right direction. Beyond the vaccinations, safety, and innovation, 2020 has taught us that it’s important to remain nimble and dynamic to change. Remember that technology is your friend and can help you even in uncertain times, including the foreseeable future, as we work to put the pandemic behind us all. Unexpected obstacles are inevitable and can prove catastrophic even with the right planning, but present opportunities to learn and improve from them.
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About the Author
Syd was a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.