One data point we looked at closely at the start of the pandemic was the impact it would have on consumers. Would they return to a restaurant? Would delivery be an option, considering food is still handled by a person who may or may not have washed their hands?
We now know delivery took off and consumers were willing to pay exorbitant amounts for delivery to avoid going out. What we didn’t count on was the impact the virus would have on the then 12 million foodservice workers. Nearly six months into releasing a vaccine, the U.S. has been in a holding pattern with just more than 50 percent of the adult population taking it. This means there are large numbers of Americans – those who may be prime foodservice workers – who are concerned about returning to work for fear of attracting the virus.
In a study we completed in late 2020, we asked patrons when they planned to return to restaurants as they once did. Nearly 25 percent indicated they would return once a vaccine was introduced – which at the time seemed a pipe dream. It seems consumers in fact WANT to return, but foodservice staff do not. Keep in mind, consumers and foodservice workers can be one in the same.
Potential Responses to Concerned Restaurant Staff to Delta
With our country greatly divided at the moment – there are ideological donnybrooks taking place with rural versus urban, vaxxers versus anti-vaxxers, elites versus populists, takers versus stimulus and countless others – we’re not in a position to take a political stance here. What we can try to do is give ideas to customers (your restaurants) on how to help retain and attract staff by determining if, in fact, the scarcity of labor is a Covid-19 issue or something else altogether.
Off-The-Cuff Responses to a Jittery Foodservice Labor Force
|Potential Labor Objection||Restaurant Questions and Responses|
|Working too closely with patrons will make me sick.||
|The restaurant industry went into a tailspin last year and I’m afraid it will never return.||
|The Delta variant is going to shut down restaurants again.||
Vaccination Choice is a Serious Issue
You may have noticed we had some fun with the responses. The vaccination issue is real and personal to individuals, and until the pandemic is really over (whenever that might be), the industry needs to continue to look into the future and develop contingency plans. Because, well, there is still a lot we don’t know 18 months into Covid-19.