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No Shot. No Proof. No Service.... No Thanks?

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

The answer varies dramatically by market and by activity

Just when businesses began gaining momentum, so did the Delta variant leading to the decision to require proof of vaccine. Last month, New York City, San Francisco and New Orleans implemented a first of its kind city wide mandates to require consumers to show proof of vaccination or negative covid test to enter indoor businesses from restaurants to gyms, from hair salons to movie theaters. This week, New York will start enforcing the mandates. For a comparison, we surveyed Denver as another market that has been exploring the vaccine mandates with many restaurants and other businesses voluntarily adding a proof of vaccine mandate.

From a research perspective, this gives us a "test market" to listen and learn in preparation if other cities follow suit. The impact of the mandate varies dramatically representing the bell curve of consumer sentiment across the country. This report specifically addresses the impact on restaurants; data from10 other business verticals will be shared soon.

Spoiler alert - yes, it polarizes, and it's not just the data!

Going local with #JourneyBackToJoy

We surveyed consumers specifically in these markets post mandate to get answers. Note: the survey was paused in New Orleans given the focal point of Ida recovery.

To frame the magnitude of this new mandate, it’s important to have a comparison point.

When it comes to employees wearing masks, it’s a net favorable impact for restaurant visits:

  • 51% more often

  • 14% less often or stopped going

  • ·+37pt Net impact (More often – less often/stopped)

No Shot, No Service, No Proof – No thanks?

Yet, ask a customer to wear a mask, and it’s a different story. Ask customers to show proof of vaccination or proof of the negative Covid-19 test, the number of those that will completely opt out increases even more.

% Net Impact on going out to eat (More Likely – Less Likely/Stopped)

  • +37pt for employees wearing masks

  • +7 pt for customers wearing masks

  • +6 pt for proof of vaccination

  • -11 pt for proof of negative test

% Stopped going out to eat until the mandate is lifted

  • 6% employees wearing masks

  • 7% customers wearing masks

  • 15% proof of vaccine

  • 17% proof of negative test

Side bar: Interestingly, we shared these early insights with business leaders to check in before publishing the data. Surprisingly (or not) there were polarizing interpretations of the same facts. Depending on the filter, business owners saw and interpreted this data differently. On the positive, the proof of vaccination net impact to restaurants is positive across NYC, San Francisco, Denver and NOLA, and no different than masks. (+7pt vs +6pt), showing an opportunity for the industry to create a higher social good with a vaccine mandate. Yet, on the negative side, there are 2x the number that have completely opted out of dining out due to the vaccine proof mandate (15%) vs masks (7%). The 8pt gap was alarming to some, but not all.

55% of "Less Likely" to visit restaurants are vaccinated. There are two confounding forces colliding

Over half of “Less Oftens” are vaccinated

There are two confounding forces colliding. On one hand, some consumers believe that taking the vaccine is the right thing to do yet requiring proof may be crossing the line. On the other hand, while requiring proof of vaccination is supposed to make us feel safer, for some, it appears that it’s creating more anxiety to not go out at all. Not to mention, the potential added anxiety of losing the irreplaceable vaccine card.

% Vaccinated Status by Restaurant Visit Impact

  • 91% are vaccinated - Visit Restaurant More Often

  • 55% are vaccinated - Visit Restaurant Less often

  • 37% are vaccinated - Stopped going out until mandate lifted

Vaccine sentiment depends on where you live

Highest business risk market: Denver

The data varies dramatically by market with San Francisco being much more favorable to the proof of vaccine mandates while Denver shows much more resistance to the mandate so this will be a consideration both for city officials as well as business owners. New York sits in the middle.

% Net Impact on going out to eat (More Likely – Less Likely/Stopped)

  • +25pt San Francisco (+9 pt vs. masks)

  • +5pt New York City (-1pt vs. masks)

  • -10pt Denver (-11pt vs. masks)

% Stopped going out to eat until the mandate is lifted

  • 10% San Francisco

  • 14% New York City

  • 22% Denver

The question for businesses, how, if at all, will the vaccine mandate consumer tension subside over time? Time will tell, and it may be a while.

So what? Now what?

If you are a business operator in these markets, buckle up as it is likely going to be a bumpy ride for the next few weeks. For the rest of the country, keenly watch and take notes as other cities and municipalities consider adding the mandates. Time will tell if consumers will become more accepting of proof of vaccination, yet if customers wearing masks is any indication, it may be a while.

Three key action items:

  1. Executional clarity. The mandate is clear, but how to execute day to day is not. Consumers are told that their cards are irreplaceable so they are concerned with carrying them around. Make the requirements clear - what they are and how to meet them. Post signage with QRCodes, on website and facebook to take some pressure off your staff. Train your team on protocols of what's acceptable or not and be consistent.

  2. Communication hierarchies matter. As Delta concerns increase and mandates are added, there may be a tendency to want to go back to more safety messaging. Pause. Know your target, get really good at knowing who they are, but the likely answer is don't do lead with safety. Lead with joy, reassure with safety. Yes, bring back those safety messages, but as reassurance, not the main message. That will likely turn off your leading segments and make the anxious segments more anxious.

  3. Be prepared and patient. For those that run restaurants in our 4 "test markets" we appreciate your "participation" in this research as the industry will undoubtedly learn a lot. We don't need data to tell us this topic polarizes, you live it. You can help the rest of the industry be better prepared going forward.

Survey data collected week ending August 26, 2021 by Lisa W. Miller & Associates and Prodege, LLC from a representative sample of 691adults 18 years and older. DMA markets - New York City, NY, San Francisco, CA, Denver, CO and New Orleans, LA. NOLA was paused due hurricane Ida.

Click here to learn more about this thought provoking initiative "Gearing Up For The Consumer Re-entry & The The Journey Back to Joy"

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