Vaccination requirements at restaurants are popping up across the United States now that the Pfizer vaccine is FDA-approved. As a restaurant owner, it's important to understand how these requirements may impact your business.
OpenTable has even allowed restaurants to add vaccination requirements to their profile.
OpenTable Expands Safety Precautions to Include Vaccination Requirements
OpenTable gives restaurants the ability to offer patrons the option of reserving their tables online and more. The platform is one of the most popular in the industry, and they have a Safety Precautions feature that has been in use for years.
As COVID 19 safety precautions at restaurants change, the platform decided that it's time for them to allow restaurants to incorporate vaccine requirements.
When diners log into the platform, they can:
- Click on the restaurant profile on the app or website
- View the Safety Precautions information (scroll down)
- View the requirements and precautions of the restaurant
You can now add in a variety of information on the platform, such as:
- Mask requirements for waitstaff
- Vaccination requirements
- Sanitization options for customers
- Contactless payment
OpenTable expects that some diners will prefer to go to restaurants where they take strict measures and enforce vaccination proof. The company will even add a listing that allows users of the platform to view lists of restaurants that only allow customers that have vaccination proof.
The platform also hopes that providing this information will inform customers who want to go to a restaurant that they cannot enter if they're not vaccinated.
Enforcing Vaccination Proof Requirements
If you're going to enforce vaccination amongst customers, everyone must be treated equally. You cannot change the rules for a friend or family member because it becomes a case of discrimination to require vaccination at that point.
You'll need to train staff, especially managers:
- Understand your requirements and what proof of vaccination means.
- Understand what will suffice as "proof" because it can be an app, card, or something else.
- Ask specific questions and avoid others
- The best way to approach customers and ask for their proof of vaccination.
Most importantly, you'll want to train staff on what to do if someone doesn't have proof of vaccination or becomes irate over needing proof. If there's one thing that the pandemic has shown owners, it's that there are a lot of emotions and anger about restrictions.
Staff needs to be prepared for some patrons to become confrontational and not want to abide by the mandate.
Disgruntled customers should be a primary concern, and you should have protocols in place that protect all of your workers. If a customer becomes disgruntled, management should be ready to step in and take action to keep waitstaff and other employees as safe as possible.
Additionally, communication is key to keeping unvaccinated customers from becoming angry and confrontational.
- Post your vaccination requirements on social media
- Add a banner or popup on your site mentioning the requirement
- Placing a large sign on the door or in the parking lot mentioning the requirement
- Add the policy to third-party sites
Finally, you need to know your legal rights to request vaccination proof.
Can Restaurants Require Proof of Vaccination?
A restaurant's guideline for vaccinated visitors is valid despite what your friends or family members state. The Delta variant is spreading to more diners and restaurant staff, and the uptick in cases is leading restaurants to ask for:
- Proof of vaccination
- Proof of a negative test
As a private business, a restaurant's vaccine requirements are 100% valid, albeit controversial. In some states, it appears that the vaccine requirements also mean that there's no need to wear a mask in the restaurant.
We're seeing these vaccine requirements everywhere, from airlines to local universities.
Of course, testing negative for COVID-19 is another option for many of these businesses. Since a business has every right to serve or not serve a customer, they can require a vaccine.
However, a restaurant's COVID-19 restrictions may be illegal if they:
- Require you to show proof of vaccination
- Don't require other guests to show vaccination proof
For years, establishments have had a "no shoes, no shirt, no service" policy in place. Dress codes also exist at many upscale restaurants, and these requirements have all been validated in the past.
Many diners also argue that the vaccine requirements at restaurants are a HIPAA violation, but this is also false. HIPAA protects sensitive information about your medical history, but the law pertains to certain "covered entities."
For the most part, the restrictions of HIPAA do not extend to businesses outside of the healthcare industry.
One can argue that the requirements go against the ADA or Civil Rights Act, but this is a topic that is up for debate. The restaurant may argue that they've tried to make every reasonable accommodation possible for the guest.
There must be a reasonable accommodation for people that cannot be vaccinated, but what is considered reasonable?
A negative test may be deemed reasonable.
Reasonability may also be found in requiring a person to wear a mask, or it may mean offering a private table for a guest that's not vaccinated. However, the term "reasonable" is debatable because restaurant owners do not have unlimited resources.
Guests cannot expect a restaurant to go through an undue burden because of a guest.
For example, the restaurant shouldn't be required to:
- Create an outdoor dining area for unvaccinated guests
- Create a new private dining room for the guests
Restaurant owners have to do their part to try and meet the needs of guests under the ADA and Civil Rights Act. If the restaurant requires recent proof of a negative test from these guests, it may be enough to satisfy the reasonable accommodation requirements.
We're seeing more COVID 19 safety requirements at restaurants, and while a diner may not agree with the requirements, similar requirements have been in place for a long time. Dress codes are one example of a rule that patrons have followed at restaurants with no qualms.
While some accommodations may need to be made under special circumstances, restaurants can ask their guests to abide by the rules or not frequent their establishment.