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Understanding Mask Requirements for Restaurants

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask indoors. There are some exceptions. So what does that mean for restaurants?

6 min read
6/4/2021
restaurant mask requirements

On May 13, 2021, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people can resume the indoor and outdoor activities they enjoyed before the pandemic — and they no longer need to wear masks. But there's an important caveat: 

Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

So what does that mean for your business? The short answer: it depends. 

If you live somewhere masks are required

As of June 1, more than 20 states and territories and various cities and counties still have mask mandates. If your business is in one of these states or places, you still need to comply with any applicable state or local mask mandates. 

People everywhere — including business owners and customers — have seen a lot of conflicting guidance and changing regulations around masks. Even in areas where a mandate exists, we recommend using clear signage in and around your business so customers know before they come inside that masks are required. 

If you live somewhere masks are no longer required 

In states, cities, counties and territories with no mask mandates, many business owners are asking the same questions: Can I still require staff and customers to wear masks? And if I'm allowed to, should I? 

The general consensus is that when there isn't a mandate, mask requirements are up to the discretion of the business owner — but many of our restaurant partners are looking for more explicit guidance. Businesses will need to review all applicable laws and regulations to make their own determination as to whether they can have mask requirements in place. 

In a recent interview with NPR, the National Restaurant Association made the following recommendations:

  • Customer mask policy: Put up signs asking diners who are unvaccinated to remain masked unless they're eating.

  • Employee mask policy: Have employees continue to wear masks as guidelines evolve. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers provide a safe and healthful workplace. 

Implementing your mask policy

When deciding what your business's mask policy will be, here are a few things to keep in mind. 

If you do not require masks for vaccinated people:

Staff members can still wear masks if they choose (and should be allowed to do so).

If you require masks regardless of vaccination status

Children under two and people with medical exceptions are generally not required to wear masks.

Let your customers know your policy

Regardless of what you decide, it's important that customers know your mask policy before they enter your restaurant. You can do that by: 

Posting signage at the front of your store. 

Use wall clings, posters, and more to share your mask policy on the door to your store so it's the first thing that customers see.

If you accept reservations online or via email, add your mask policy to your confirmation emails. 

Don't keep incoming customers guessing at your mask policy. Let them know in your confirmation emails for reservations what to expect. 

If you do require masks, have some extras on hand. 

With the changing regulations, some people may no longer be carrying them. Rather than turn them away, keep a reserve of masks and offer them one of those so they can continue to dine in.

Post a message on social media outlining your policy. 

We recommend using inclusive, apolitical language when sharing your restaurant mask policy on social media. Here are some examples: 

  • For the safety of our staff and other customers, please wear a mask in our restaurant if you are not fully vaccinated. 

  • To our loyal customers: Welcome back! We can’t wait to see you. For the time being, if you’re dining inside, please wear a mask when you’re not eating, even if you’re fully vaccinated. 

  • Masks are not required at our restaurant, but you are welcome to wear yours if you like.

Reopening your restaurant for dine-in 

It’s time to open your doors for dine-in — and we’re here to help.

From masks regulations and staff vaccinations to complying with local regulations and streamlining your operations, we’ve pulled together tools and resources to help you reopen your business for dine-in at the Reopening Guide for Restaurants.

Author

Jen Brown

Jen Brown

Copywriter

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