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What Proof-of-Vaccination Mandates Mean for Restaurant Franchises

A vaccine mandate, while beneficial for public health, could make it harder for restaurants to stay afloat.

By Justin Wick1851 Franchise Contributor
Updated 2:14PM 09/27/21

On Sunday, the editorial board for the Chicago Sun Times published a column titled “Restaurants need another federal rescue fast.” The column discusses how a vaccine mandate could cause a reduction in restaurant traffic and argues that the public-health measure shouldn’t come at the expense of restaurants, who are still struggling to get back on their feet after last year’s shutdowns.

The writers take a stance in favor of mandates, saying “vaccinated people should be entitled to privileges that are withheld from unvaccinated people.” They add that a mandate should be handled in a way that “minimizes the harm done to small businesses,” which is how they see federal assistance can help restaurants stay open.

The article also points out that a “$28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund” was enacted in March of this year, with over 370,000 restaurant owners applying for grant funding. “Only about 105,000 businesses ultimately got a piece of the rescue money,” according to the Sun Times, and the fund was entirely depleted before July.

Wherever vaccine requirements are put into effect, the restaurant industry is bound to change. A thoughtful franchisor could allow an entire brand to capitalize on new restrictions, however, and some proactive measures could soon allow a franchise to take advantage of a new wave of consumer demand.

A vaccine requirement can cause strain for virtually all restaurants, but the franchising industry is likely better equipped to handle that strain than independent businesses. A restaurant franchise has a corporate blueprint to help navigate any restrictions, along with a network of peers to share ideas, best practices and resources.

Restaurant franchises may soon find themselves dealing with lower consumer traffic, and brands may soon re-prioritize the measures that allowed them to navigate the pandemic in the first place. Certain restaurants with drive-thru or takeout offerings will be able to maximize those features to the fullest if proof of vaccination becomes a requirement for dine-in services.

It can be difficult for large franchisors to make collective decisions while keeping the best interests of all franchisees in mind. A company-wide provision that requires proof of vaccination would help promote health and wellness for both employees and consumers, but it can also bring increased criticism from franchise owners in certain parts of the country if it takes away from consumer revenue. Those complaints are only magnified after 2020 took so much money out of the pockets of restaurant owners.

A federal bailout would help independent restaurants and franchise brands alike, but the collaboration of franchisees and an adaptive business model could again be essential for a brand’s success — no matter how abundant or limited some government assistance may be.