How To Implement A Restaurant Vaccine Passport Plan
While many are eager to put the pandemic in the past, cases have begun to spike once again increasing weekly to more than 150K in the United States alone this week. In response to that, some operations have instituted restaurant vaccine passports to allow for safer spaces for guests and staff alike. A restaurant vaccine passport is used to identify customers who are protected from the pandemic. Vaccine passports are a safety measure to mitigate the potential for infection, although the delta-variant has proven a greater challenge. Still, however, you feel about vaccine passports, implementing one is a multi-step process worth considering as you weigh your options.
Why Vaccine Passports Are Used
The reason for implementing restaurant vaccine passports is the potential for mitigating an increasingly infectious virus. As of this writing, only about 40.3% of the global population has at least received one dose of one of the available vaccines. This is in part due to resources, with many countries still unable to obtain any of the available vaccines. Additionally, 25.4% of the global population is between the ages of 0-14, meaning that for many a vaccine isn’t even available to them. Because of availability issues, some have argued against the use of vaccine passports as inequitable. Let’s look at how the emergence of new variants presents fresh challenges.
How Variants Impact the Industry
The coronavirus has already seen many variations since its discovery in late-2019. The most recent of which is the delta-variant, which is highly contagious and infectious to those with and without the vaccine. Still, vaccination and social distancing protocols mitigate that both transmission and the severity of the illness, which in turn minimizes how the virus evolves. According to Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a virologist at Johns Hopkins, “If you limit the overall replication of the virus to 1000 times, then it’s much less likely that the random advantageous mutation is going to occur.”
In short, if you starve the virus of hosts, then it has less chance to reproduce and change. Unfortunately, there are already variants that are potentially more deadly, including the recent Lamba and Mu variants. These preventable mutations are a clear and present danger to any industry, ergo the interest in restaurant vaccine passports. Now that we have a little context for how and why the virus has continued to pose a threat, let’s look at your best steps for implementing a restaurant vaccine passport program.
Managing Your Front of House
Managing any restaurant vaccine passport strategy starts with good communication and the diligence of your front-of-house (FOH) staff. First, if your operation is instituting a vaccine passport plan independent of local bureaucracy, make sure that your guests are made aware. That might mean pursuing a variety of channels, from social media to the appropriate signage, and more, which best prepares your diners for what to expect upon arrival.
Once they’ve arrived, your FOH staff will take their information. Depending on how the size of the restaurant information, that data may be saved across multiple platforms. For example, if a chain or conglomerate implements a vaccine passport, that information can be shared through the cloud to grant quicker, easier access within the same franchise elsewhere. Let’s look at the diner’s journey through the lens of the restaurant vaccine passport.
First Point of Contact
Every operation is different in terms of their restaurant technology platforms, with some functioning with far fewer pieces of tech. Low-tech solutions for this are simple: employees can simply look at vaccination cards at the door, like a bouncer checking an ID before entry into a club. For the more technologically inclined, there are options to digitally check a restaurant vaccine passport. Once processed, information can be transmitted to the cloud to let any other operations within an organization know, ergo providing quicker ease of entry for guests at other related establishments.
Throughout the pandemic, guest management and reservation tools were incredibly useful in managing the flow of incoming traffic. By asking diners to reserve ahead of time, operations could in turn prevent the overcrowding that prevents effective social distancing protocols. While those mitigations may or may not return, guest management technology is, as advertised, a great way to prepare incoming guests of your restaurant vaccine passport strategy. Likewise, your guest management technology is useful in letting your affiliate operations know is and isn’t vaccinated in advance, thus granting quicker entry to diners looking for a variety of culinary experiences.
Another great way to communicate restaurant vaccine passport information is through the use of contactless technologies. Contactless tech like QR codes can be an effective way to collect the information guests need for entry while minimizing contact. Make sure that you have a strategy in place to safeguard customer data, which is an imminent target for unscrupulous hackers.
Part of any restaurant vaccine passport, mask mandate, or social distancing strategy is to in turn keep your staff safe. Especially given the staffing challenges restaurateurs have experienced, keeping your staff safe and secure is another great way to keep them around. More importantly, the staff is your frontline in realizing your restaurant vaccine passport strategy, and integral to your success. Remain mindful of their stresses in dealing with potentially difficult guests through a particularly trying time. Emotional health can lead to turnover, especially as staff measures their wage against the risk involved, so make sure you take care of your staff.
Spotting a Fake Passport
Unfortunately, there are always people out there who will take advantage of any situation. As such, some guests have tried to pass off fake vaccine passports to gain entry to their chosen establishment. While digital passports have been considered in many places, paper vaccine cards are the most common in the U.S.
Look for discrepancies between the dates administered between shots for guests who have taken either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Keep in mind that those dates are typically between 3-4 weeks apart, which should be reflected on the card. If you notice any other issues with the card, you can call the facility that issued the card; you might also contact law enforcement to alert them to fraud. Make sure that you and your staff are delicate with guests who may seem to have a fraudulent card; their vaccine card may be real in spite of appearances. Furthermore, some guests may get angry and react accordingly if confronted, so proceed with caution.
A Restaurant Vaccine Passport Alternative
Irrespective of any debate on the efficacy of restaurant vaccine passports, there is one option that remains critical to keep guests and staff safe, while considering the bottom line: enhanced off-premise dining options. During the pandemic, off-premise dining evolved from useful to necessary to keep operations afloat. Whether you use third-party delivery services or run your off-premise channels in-house, there are technological options that can help. Order aggregators can enhance your speed of service and quality control, by organizing where each order goes by type, destination, and more. Likewise, technology can improve your curbside operations, transforming your parking lot into your dining room.
Restaurant Vaccine Passport Conclusion
Companies like our partners at OpenTable have already begun work in collaborating with biotechnology companies to futureproof restaurants. As more people are vaccinated, hopefully, the coronavirus will either die out or evolve into something comparably harmless like the seasonal flu. As these changes happen, restaurateurs are at the frontline of the debate. Using technologies can greatly increase your efficiency while lowering your risk. Remember too, that restaurant vaccine passport plans can easily be retooled into something like a loyalty program if or when they are rendered moot, meaning that your investment can continue to pay off down the line for safety and more.
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About the Author
Syd is a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.