New vaccine mandate set to impact restaurants in Philadelphia next week

Starting January 3, indoor restaurants in Philadelphia will need to see customers’ proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The rule does not take full effect immediately. Until January 17, restaurants can choose to accept a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry in lieu of proof of vaccination. But after this date, only proof of vaccination will be acceptable.

The rule also applies to employees. Restaurant staff as well as young customers aged 5 to 11 will need to receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine by January 3 and complete the series by February 3. Exemptions apply to children under 5, people with medical reasons. and those with religious objections.

READ MORE: What You Need To Know About Philly’s Vaccine Mandate For Indoor Meals

Almost all establishments that serve food and / or drink will be affected by this rule, from cafes, bars and gyms to cinemas, bowling alleys and food halls. Obviously, these new rules will add additional pressure on local restaurants that are already grappling with existing mandates, rising prices, and supply and labor shortages. And while these rules only apply to indoor dining, concerns have been expressed that they will come into force before new legislation can make the open-air dining facilities that have sprung up permanent. during the pandemic.

If you operate a dining establishment in town, here’s how to prepare.

You want to make sure that your customers are fully aware of what is expected of them. Post the rules on your front door and inside your restaurant. Update your Yelp, Facebook, and other social media listings as well as your website. You don’t want clients to be turned down because they weren’t aware of these new mandates.

Unlike other cities like New York, Philadelphia, most private companies are not required to have their employees vaccinated. But the restaurants are. Many have already started this process as many owners believe that vaccinations will provide a safer environment for both their employees and customers and also demonstrate concern for the health of the community.

“All of our staff are already fully vaccinated,” said Hector Serrano, owner of Restaurant Boricua in Northern Liberties. “As a small family business, we wanted to set an example for other small businesses. Not only is it important to follow city guidelines, but especially for our customers. “

Olivier Desaintmartin, owner of the Caribou Café in the city center, has also required vaccines for more than two weeks.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We ask for the proof of vaccination, either the CDC card or a copy on their phone. Eighty percent of customers don’t care at all. There are still problems, of course, but minor ones.

»READ MORE: Craig LaBan’s year in Philly food 2021

Your employees should be fully aware of all the rules and know how to explain the rules to customers who may not understand, be aware, or simply disagree. No one wants arguments or deadlines, which is why many restaurateurs already start the training process before the mandate. Organizations like the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation provide training materials and resources.

“We are in the process of training managers on how to verify an ID and vaccine card or a Clear app (a mobile app),” Edward Garcia, president of Queen & Rook Game Café, told Queen Village. “We’re a little nervous about queues when checking the status or pushback for customers who aren’t notified, but we know it’s the right next step. “

Aimee Olexy, co-owner of the city’s popular Talula’s Garden and The Love restaurants, agrees.

“I am focusing on training the staff at The Love and Talula’s Garden,” she said. “In the same way that I like to teach the team about food, farms, wines and cocktails; we are now educating the team on best practices for COVID security. “

The reality is that the new vaccination rules will likely reduce sales this winter. Those who would normally consider coming from the suburbs for a night on the town may be discouraged and choose to stay local. And unlike 2020 and 2021, there are few federal funding programs or new stimulus bills available.

READ MORE: Philadelphia restaurants change course as COVID-19 cases increase

Restaurant owners should consider offering other services and products as well as leveraging technology to minimize overhead costs. Many restaurants are gearing up to sell more gift cards, double alfresco dining, and expand delivery options. Others are upgrading online ordering and point-of-sale systems to allow as much self-service as possible.

“Above all, we want customers to come and enjoy our delicious food and drinks,” Olexy said. “This is what we really appreciate, and we are ready to improve our health and safety practices to do so. “

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