No jab, no service: restaurant safety fears

30th July 2021 | Eativity editors

Restaurant sector confidence has fallen since the beginning of this year, a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic and its reverberations are far from over for the country’s hospitality industry. But while lockdowns and staff shortages continue to bite, a new report has found that many restaurants are also concerned about the slow vaccine rollout, and some would like the option to refuse service to unvaccinated customers.

According to the latest Deliveroo HospoVitality Index Report, only 46 percent of restaurants say they feel positive about the future of hospitality in Australia, down from 59 percent in January. A fifth of all restaurants feel negative about the future of the sector.

Only around 14% of Australians are currently fully vaccinated against COVID.

The report has revealed how many of the impacts from COVID are disproportionately affecting the hospitality industry, and it’s not just snap lockdowns and severe staff shortages that are dampening the sector’s confidence. The slower than expected vaccine rollout is causing grave concerns in an industry that’s highly exposed to the public.

Almost one quarter of restaurants surveyed for the report say they’d like to know a customer’s vaccination status and have the option of not serving them. Just over half also say they are, to some degree, concerned about serving unvaccinated customers.

Restaurants believe that home delivery will only become more important to the industry in future.

Against a backdrop of a severe talent crunch and concerns over the vaccine rollout, restaurant owners are continuing to look for ways to thrive in a difficult environment. Six in 10 restaurants expect food delivery will play an even larger role in their business operations than before the pandemic. Among takeaway restaurants this figure is even higher, with 71 percent believing that delivery will only become more important to their business.

The survey of restaurant owners across Australia was conducted when Victoria was once again pushed into lockdown in May. It should be noted that this was prior to the recent lockdowns in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. In Victoria, confidence in the sector has now suffered a significant decline, and confidence in NSW has also fallen. However, speaking to news site news.com.au, Deliveroo Australia CEO Ed McManus said that he believes if the survey were to be conducted now, this decline in confidence would be “even worse”.

59% of restaurants say the availability of staff is their number one issue.

While many restaurants don’t see their outlook improving significantly in the very near future, over half are positive about their prospects a year from now. But as the sector transitions from pandemic survival to recovery, and then hopefully towards growth, this won’t happen without the right people staffing up the industry.

Six in 10 restaurants say the availability of staff is the greatest challenge they face. The key to a stable and consistent recovery for the hospitality sector is enabling businesses to find and hire the skilled workers that they need. Government support is vital in this regard, with restaurant owners saying they’d like government support in the relaxation of border restrictions for skilled foreign workers, support for businesses to offer training and apprenticeships and greater incentives for young people to undertake skills training.