Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so you don’t have to. This week’s topic: recent updates to mask mandates and how it impacts the hospitality industry. 

New Updates to Mask Mandates

Just a few days ago, the CDC announced new updates to mask mandates. Their update said that fully vaccinated Americans can begin to resume pre-pandemic. Their full statement goes as follows: “Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”  

The updates to mask mandates and social distancing requirements is likely due to two things. One, 36% of Americans have been fully vaccinated. Two, May 16th, 2021, saw the lowest number of new COVID cases since March 25th, 2020. For those reasons, it only makes sense that health and safety requirements have started to loosen.  

For businesses, this change guidelines is exciting but can also cause confusion amongst customers. This is particularly true in the hospitality industry, where guests have likely been asked to follow slightly different updates to mask mandates than other businesses: masks down when you’re alone at the table, eating, or drinking – and masks up when you’re interacting with staff or are away from the table.  

As mentioned by the CDC, local businesses can still impose their own restrictions and require customers to adhere to them regardless of vaccination status. We believe this will be the status quo until either vaccinations increase or new cases decrease. Until thenthere are a few challenges hospitality businesses may face as we adjust to the loosened restrictions. We’ll outline them below with possible solutions you can implement with these recent updates to mask mandates. 

Challenge: Customers are confused about your business’ safety requirements.

Solution: In order to set proper expectations, you should communicate in as many ways as possible what your requirements and updates to mask mandates are. This may be through physical signs at your establishment, via social media, or any other way you can reach your audience. It’s key to be transparent and consistent with guests that way they understand what’s expected of them.  

Challenge: Whether you need to confirm vaccination status. 

Solution: Per the CDC, only those who are fully vaccinated can go mask-less (where permitted)Currently many restaurants are choosing to continue upholding mask mandates but for those that aren’t, are they allowed to ask customers to see their proof of vaccination? What’s the best way to assess vaccination status?  

According to Inc.com, “In most states, there’s legally nothing stopping you from requesting to see a customer’s vaccine card” and is up to the employer’s discretion. But not every person is willing to get the vaccine or going to be comfortable sharing that personal information, especially if they’re exempt from receiving it due to religious or health-related reasons. If you’re going to be asking customers whether they’re vaccinated, consider the following:  

  • Finding a way to let future customers know that you’ll be inquiring about vaccination status. 
  • Providing employees with training or guidance on the best way ask customers. 
  • Creating a plan if you receive any pushback.  
Challenge: Customers are unhappy with your restrictions.

Solution: It’s likely that some guests will be unhappy with your guidelines, no matter what they are, so be prepared for some pushback. This may mean instructing employees to escalate issues to management, figuring out alternate solutions, or whatever else that will create a safe environment for employees and a satisfying experience for customers.  

Challenge: Making sure employees feel safe.

Solution: While customer satisfaction is crucial, making sure your employees feel safe and valued will also be key to your success (and employee retention). Ask your employees how they feel about safety requirements and what would make them comfortable. If possible, take their feedback into consideration when creating your updated safety plan –– this will help show employees that you’re concerned with their wellbeing too, not just customers.

Though the hospitality industry is still experiencing challenges related to the coronavirus, the CDC’s update to mask mandates and social distancing requirements shows we’re one step closer to getting back to pre-pandemic life. Make sure you adjust your safety plan accordingly and continue to communicate your business’ guidelines so you can create a safe environment for customers and employees.  

For more information about COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and updates to mask mandates, visit the CDC website