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Mask Policy as Risk Management

Wearing masks has been shown to be an important component in the fight to reduce the spread of COVID-19, prompting municipal governments to adopt mask policies in order for people to continue enjoying some semblance of normalcy. Like many things, wearing a mask has become a source of controversy, sparking widespread debates about freedom and social responsibility. While enforcing a mask policy may not always be the popular option for businesses, it’s an undeniably important part of your risk management policy. 

Until the pandemic is officially declared to be over, ignoring safe policy options to indulge people who may not view mask wearing as “popular” is not in your best interests - no matter how enticing it is to accept their money. Without consistent application of a comprehensive policy, your restaurant runs the risk of contravening local or provincial regulations; significant liability for staff and customers; and irreversible damage to its reputation. 

Protect yourself by protecting employees and customers 

We’ve previously written about how your restaurant can go about implementing a comprehensive mask policy. From taking the burden off your employees by enforcing policies from the top down, to raising awareness and training customers, there are many ways you can put an effective mask policy in place . 

Mask policies in your restaurant help protect staff members and customers from COVID-19 transmission, making your restaurant a safer place to work, eat and enjoy time with friends and family. This is especially important if you plan to continue serving customers indoors. By protecting your staff members and loyal customers, you are ensuring that your restaurant liability is reduced in the event that employees or patrons develop COVID-19, securing your businesses future by taking proactive measures. 

Not only is it the right thing to do morally, but it is also the legal requirement in most cases. While Ontario hasn’t enforced mandatory mask policies, the vast majority of public health units within the province, and many across Canada, have adopted policies that require people to wear a mask in public places where social distancing isn’t possible. By not enforcing a mask policy in your restaurant, you’re contravening bylaws that could result in your restaurant being fined or even shut down.  

Think about the long-term effects before giving into short-term money 

While it might seem like your business needs any revenue it can get in a COVID economy, regardless of where it comes from, failure to consistently apply policies that protect your customers may drive the most loyal of them away. Giving in to a few people that don’t want to wear a mask can have long-term repercussions far too serious to justify any short term gains. 

Think about it in terms of a rowdy table that is disrespectful of other diners. No matter how much money they are spending, if they are affecting the experience of everyone else in the restaurant, you would ask them to change their behaviour and, if they didn’t, then to leave. The reality is that a non mask-wearer is disrespecting the business policies and putting others at risk.      Other diners who choose your establishment, because they appreciate the measure of protection masks provide, may not return during COVID if they see someone walking around without a mask. They may never return. 

Employees may have to make decisions about people who are claiming medical exceptions. Many municipalities do not require people to provide proof, and it’s a loophole that some, who just don’t want to wear a mask, may exploit. Often it’s a judgement call as to whether they have a medical condition or not. One option is to provide alternate services such as take out or curbside pick-up.  Make sure your employees are empowered to turn a customer away without fear of repercussions from management. Some people may call to complain or leave a bad review if they are turned away because of a mask policy. Your response to bad online reviews due to a mask-wearing policy should clearly outline that you took the measure for the safety of customers and staff.  

Be consistent, even if it’s not always popular 

Sometimes policies are not viewed as popular by a segment of your clientele making them uncomfortable for employees to enforce. Empower your team by explaining that they are making the right call by consistently enforcing policies designed to protect everyone. When you encounter people who refuse to follow the rules, employees can politely explain the reason for the policy and the requirement that it will be stringently enforced. 

These types of policies are not new. We have all come to understand that without a shirt and shoes we won’t be served. At this point in the game, there are very few people who don’t understand the need for wearing masks and social distancing. So, no shirt, no shoes, no mask – no service. 

Giving your employees the ability to say no to a customer who refuses to wear a mask or follow social distancing guidelines keeps them safe and protects the other customers in your restaurant. By following the rules and empowering your employees to make the call, you’re helping ensure that staff and customers are kept safe, and that your restaurant will come out of these tough economic times intact.  

FoodSafetyMarket is a leading provider of nationally certified online food handler training, infographics, and training supplies that can help your business keep its customers safe. For more information about the food handler training offered by FoodSafetyMarket, contact us today at