Restaurants Battle COVID-19 Delta Variant

Topics: Small Business

Summary: Restaurants were one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic. In some cases, they were able to adapt to other services and fully reopen earlier this spring. But, now, as the COVID-19 Delta Variant spreads across the U.S., restaurant owners are putting different safety measures in place to keep staff and customers safe. In some major metropolitan areas, restaurant owners are taking it upon themselves to require proof of vaccination before providing indoor service to help protect their businesses.

COVID-19 Delta Variant and Restaurants

COVID-19’s Impact on Restaurants

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the restaurant industry extremely hard. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry report, as of December 2020, more than 110,000 restaurants or bars were temporarily or permanently closed, with total sales $240 billion below the pre-pandemic predictions. The industry is also having difficulty recovering workers after initial closures, service adjustments, and staff furloughs. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund has assisted more than 100,000 restaurants since funding was released in May 2021.

Matt Zender, SVP Workers’ Compensation Strategy at AmTrust, explains what he sees as the current state for restaurants, “The sense that I have is that restaurants are optimistic. They have weathered an unprecedented period in history, and they are looking forward to getting back to what they do best-delight their customers.”

COVID-19 Delta Variant

Then, the Delta Variant, a highly contagious form of COVID-19, spread across the United States. Soon after small businesses fully reopened across the country, many are re-evaluating their COVID-19 safety measures.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently updated masking guidelines to vaccinated people to help slow down the spread of this virus in regions with substantial or high coronavirus transmission. Where allowable by state laws, many states are strongly recommending mask-wearing indoors or in crowded public settings.

Delta Variant and Restaurants

To assist in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and to protect their businesses, some business owners are enacting vaccine mandates, requiring all staff and customers to be vaccinated. Restaurant and bar owners in major cities are taking it upon themselves to create proof of vaccine policies for their team and for customers who want to eat indoors as a way to prevent future COVID-19 shutdowns.

Proof of Vaccination Required for Indoor Service

States and cities in certain regions are beginning to enact mask and vaccine requirements. New York City leaders were the first to announce that patrons of gyms and indoor dining establishments will have to show proof of at least a first vaccination. They can do so either by showing their vaccine card or via the NYC COVID SAFE app or New York’s Excelsior Pass, starting September 13.

New Orleans will also require proof of at least the first dose of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours, in addition to their indoor mask mandate, for staff and customers for indoor dining and bars.

California hasn’t put statewide health mandates in place yet, but big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles are setting vaccine requirements within their jurisdictions. Starting August 20, San Francisco will require patrons of indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all customers and staff. The city will give businesses two months to verify employees’ vaccination status. The Los Angeles City Council just voted to create vaccine requirements for indoor public spaces such as restaurants, movie theaters and concert venues.

Other major cities, such as Boston and Washington D.C., have yet to instate a citywide mandate for proof of vaccination, but they are following the latest CDC guidance. Also, Yelp is updating its app to allow businesses to share whether their staff is fully vaccinated and if customers will be required to show proof of vaccination upon entering the establishment.

Adjusting Restaurant Services

As coronavirus cases spread across both urban and rural areas last year, owners and managers adjusted their restaurants’ services, seating and safety measures to adhere to state and city health guidelines. Many restaurants added outdoor (or additional outdoor) eating opportunities. Other restaurants adapted their services to takeout and delivery services. At the same time, some shifted to a pop-up pantry format, offering the ingredients for meal and baking preparation, and some fine dining restaurants focused on preparing meals for local food pantries. As states began to drop their health measures in the spring, restaurants returned to full capacity but still following specific COVID-19 health guidelines.

“From what we’ve seen, most restaurants have not required their staff to get the vaccine, but they have continued to require them to wear a mask, even after the guidance was dropped federally,” observed Zender. “As we write this, some states are starting to require the masks indoors again, so restaurants will be able to quickly adapt back to that since they only rolled back portions of the requirements.”

Keeping Restaurants Safe for Workers and Customers

The dining experience has dramatically changed since March 2020. Restaurants that have reopened have to put even more of a focus on continuous cleaning and sanitizing in the dining and kitchen areas. Standard restaurant safety tips should be followed to protect restaurant employees. As the roles and responsibilities of the staff shift to focus on different options, such as delivery services, it’s essential to make sure that everyone has training in the latest safety protocols.

Even though state-specific COVID-19 prevention guidelines have been dropped, it is still critical for restaurants to follow the latest OSHA and CDC recommendations and increase the cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles and touch-screen kiosks. Tables should be disinfected after each customer. Restaurant staff should wear masks and wash their hands for 20 seconds, washing them more often than usual.

In their updated COVID-19 guidelines, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) recommends that restaurant owners and managers encourage their staff to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and continue wearing masks regardless of their vaccination status. These additional recommendations are on top of the already stringent safety recommendations, including:
  • Training workers on COVID-19 safety protocols
  • Establishing appropriate social distancing rules
  • Monitoring employee health and personal hygiene
  • Implementing a high level of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting from the front to the back end of the restaurant
  • Installing ventilation systems

AmTrust Assists Our Restaurant Insureds

AmTrust is a leader in small business workers’ compensation insurance. We have a library of coronavirus resources and workplace safety resources to help our appointed agents and small business insured stay informed, safe, and healthy. AmTrust’s Loss Control team can identify specific hazards and offer solutions that fit your restaurant. For more information about our small business insurance solutions, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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