A majority of restaurants expect Biden's vaccine mandate to be a blow

A new survey also indicates that most operators have yet to finalize a plan for dealing with the requirement.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Most restaurateurs expect their labor situations to worsen under President Biden’s directive that most private-sector workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, though 58% of operators haven’t yet finalized their mandate strategies, according to a new survey

The canvass by Black Box Intelligence found that 59% of operators expect staff members to quit rather than comply with the mandate, which will apply to the workforces of any company with at least 100 employees. Affected workers have the choice of getting vaccinated or providing proof every week that they’ve tested negative for COVID-19.

Anti-vaxxers could avoid the pressure to roll up their sleeves by applying to employers who fall below the 100-employee threshold.  But 53% of the respondents in the Black Box survey said they anticipate the mandate will make new hires more difficult to find, which suggests a belief that more candidates will just drop out of the workforce.

Still, not every respondent was pessimistic. Eight percent said they expect higher retention rates, apparently because workers will feel safer on the job, and 7% said recruits should be easier to find.

The respondents voiced expectations that customers will regard the mandate as a good thing. A majority (52%) said they believe guests will be comforted by the safety protocols, and 15% said customers would have a better experience as a result of the historic measure. Twenty percent expressed the opinion that guests would have a worse time.

Predictions of the business impact were decidedly mixed. About 16% of respondents said they expect sales to drop because of the mandate, and the same percentage predicted a decline in traffic. But 14% said orders would increase in number, and 9% voiced an expectation that sales would improve.

The research showed that most restaurateurs are still deciding how they’ll contend with the vaccination mandate, which Biden sketched out almost a month ago.  Fifty-eight percent said they’ve not yet hammered out a strategy, a task likely complicated by the lack of details on how Biden’s mandate would work.

For instance, the administration has yet to reveal how employees will be counted. Will the tally be a head count of all staff members, part-timers included? Or does the 100-worker threshold mean 100 full-time equivalents.

Only 9% said they’ve decided to exceed the directive and require all employees to be vaccinated, as employers are allowed under OSHA regulations. Another 24% indicated that they’ll abide by the mandate’s stipulation that employees either get the needed shots of provide weekly proof of being COVID-free.

Full-service establishments were surer in their intentions, Black Box found. Only 44% of that sector has yet to decide on a plan of action, according to the researcher.

In airing his plan, Biden said that the mandate would apply to about two-thirds of the nation's workforce, or roughly 80 million people. 





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