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October 6, 2021

Operator Poll: Restaurant Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Operator Poll: Restaurant Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Download the results from our latest poll, surveying 100 restaurant brands in six segments: quick service, fast casual, family dining, casual dining, upscale/polished casual and fine dining. Operators respond with sentiment around how mandates will impact the guest experience, whether they have a plan to move forward as well as the effects mandates could have on staffing.

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Fill out the form below for your instant download. Results came from a survey of 100 restaurant brands in 6 segments: quick service, fast casual, family dining, casual dining, upscale/polished casual and fine dining. 


  • Reaction to federal mandate
  • How operators believe mandates will impact staffing
  • The impact to the guest experience
  • How many restaurants have a plan to move forward

[pardot-form width=”450″ height=”550″ id=”6539″ title=”Vaccine Survey Results – 2021″]

Most Operators Align on Sentiment around Federal Vaccine Mandate, Except for One Polarizing Area

Restaurants will soon be faced with a rule that will require employers with 100 or more employees to make sure their workforce is fully vaccinated or producing negative, weekly test results, according to the Biden Administration’s Path Out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan. There is a lot of uncertainty as businesses, including numerous chain restaurants await the updated plan from The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

According to a recent restaurant operator poll, Restaurant Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates, only 9% of restaurants believe they already have a plan in place that will require no further changes once this federal mandate becomes effective. Without clear guidance from the government, right now there are more questions than answers. Many operators are hoping for more clarity as a plan was promised this fall.

Nonetheless, restaurants can take some planning steps now to mitigate having to do too much at once. Consider the cost and potential administrative burden to collect weekly negative tests from employees if your brand chooses to go that route. If mandating vaccines is the plan, start encouraging your employees to get theirs as soon as possible, so there is less interruption from work. Consider the process for allowing religious and medical exemptions and determine what, if any, verification documents you will require from employees.

How Will Vaccines Impact the Guest Experience?

“In our latest operator survey, there were no significant differences between full-service and limited-service companies, except for one polarizing area: the guest experience,” shared Victor Fernandez, vice president of insights at Black Box Intelligence. “Limited-service restaurants expect the mandates to have a greater effect on their guest experience, but their expectations vary widely on what the effect will be. A much larger percentage of limited-service companies think the mandate will lead to a better guest experience compared to only 9% of full-service restaurants.”

While the federal mandate is focused on vaccine requirements for workers, some restaurant operators are concerned about “policing” mandates for guests. Cities including New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco already have policies in place or plans to require customers to show proof of vaccination to eat at restaurants or participate in other indoor activities.

According to The Post-pandemic Restaurant Employee: Who Wants to Work and Why, 62% of restaurant workers experienced emotional abuse or disrespect from customers. In the Restaurant Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates poll, one operator believes guest issues will escalate from forced vaccine requirements, causing hourly employees to endure the most of customer abuse. With turnover as high as it is, some operators are worried about scaring off more workers.

To learn how you can measure your guest satisfaction, learn more about our Black Box Guest Intelligence™ tool.

Guests may be more comfortable, but where will they go if there is not enough staff to serve?

While operators were more divided on how the guest experience would play out, most feel like these new mandates will negatively impact staffing and the ability to attract new workers.

“A vaccine requirement (whether we believe in them or not) will reduce an already dire staffing condition in the industry,” shared one operator. “For some reason, many of our staff are not vaccinated and don’t want to be. We struggle today just to keep the doors open.”

A few operators pointed out that employees that did not want to get vaccinated could simply go work for a restaurant with fewer than 100 employees, skirting around the mandate. Some operators cited that the guest experience would suffer from the lack of staffing, while another thinks the mandate will help the guest and service experience because there will be fewer employee absences due to COVID.

Want to see the full survey results?

Download our latest release, Restaurant Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates, for reactions to the federal vaccine mandate by 100 restaurant operators.

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