Best Practice for Mask Mandates and Conflicts

As new variants are spreading across the country, some states are encouraging mask-wearing again. As a business owner trying to keep your restaurant open, you might consider requiring it for your patrons. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with wearing a mask. That can create instant tension in your establishment and conflict between your staff and patrons. 

Whether you live in a mask-mandated area or you’re just requiring them for your business, how can you handle anti-mask conflict? 

Give Your Patrons Proper Notice

When you own a business, you make the rules. Restaurant owners have always had the right to refuse service to anyone not following those rules. Most people have heard of the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” saying. For many, however, that list now includes masks. Putting rules in place that you think will benefit your business and keep both your patrons and staff safe is crucial. But, make sure you’re transparent about them. 

The first people who should know about any rule changes are your staff. Hold regular meetings to keep your employees as up-to-date as possible on any changes you’re making. Remember, your staff will be the people enforcing mask requirements on the floor, so making sure they’re properly trained will make life easier for them. 

Next, make sure your patrons know the rules. Let them know about the mask requirement before they enter your establishment by posting a sign on the door or an A-frame sign on the sidewalk. Keep your website and social media pages consistently updated with your requirements. The last thing you want, as a restaurant, is to have a patron accuse you of not making your rules public. The more you can let them know about changes before they come in, the less likely it will be for conflict to occur. If they don’t like those rules, it’s their choice to give their business to someone else. 

Keep Your Staff Prepared

Train staff on all pandemic protocols and make sure they stay safe. Your training program should include: 

  • How to keep things hygienic
  • Cleaning practices
  • Current viral spread statistics
  • Mask policies
  • Vaccination policies

You should also train your employees on how to handle an irate or contentious customer. If someone enters your establishment and starts arguing about not wearing a mask, your staff needs to be prepared. 

You can also train your staff in de-escalation techniques, including everything from listening to an irate person “flood” them with words to acknowledging, apologizing, and clarifying. Some patrons won’t ease up, but de-escalation skills can help your workers maintain a calm, positive environment. 

Offer Other Options

Try offering your customers other options that limit direct contact between them and your staff such as delivery, contactless curbside pickup and to-go ordering

While patrons will still have to wear a mask to enter your restaurant, most people aren’t as likely to complain about having to wear one for 30 seconds while they’re picking up food and taking it home. Self-ordering kiosks can also help, especially if you put them in the front of your restaurants. These are gaining a lot of traction thanks to the current labor shortage across the country.

Lowering the risk for conflict to occur inside your establishment is one of the best things you can do. As an employer, your staff’s safety and well-being should be your top priority. If things ever escalate between a staff member and customer, make sure you’re ready and willing to step in and help.