The coronavirus has brought many challenges to the food and beverage industry over the last year. Many restaurants and catering companies had to lay off employees to stay afloat while others temporarily shut down. With a number of states relaxing their dining restrictions, operators are beginning to reopen and offer in-person dining. As the nation begins to taste a bit of normalcy, foodservice establishments are facing a new obstacle: finding ways to encourage employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Demanding that staff members get the vaccine or face termination can create strong resentment from your team and could cause legal actions. There are a number of individuals who are unable to get vaccinated because of a sincerely held religious belief, medical issue, or disability. This makes it important for you to develop other avenues for those employees to obtain the same incentives.

Mandating employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is a fine line to walk. However, motivating staff members to receive the vaccine with incentives is the best and safest practice. This detailed guide provides you with 5 ways restaurants can incentivize employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

1. Offer Educational Programs

Before offering employees incentives to take the vaccine, consider educating them first. Provide them with accurate, up-to-date information about the potential benefits and risks of the vaccine. Many of them may not have an understanding of what the vaccination procedure is like, which is why they’re discouraged to receive it. You can offer staff members the proper information for their concerns by:

  • Allowing them to ask you questions: Staff members may want to speak with you privately about their COVID-19 vaccine worries. Offer them a space to listen to their concerns and provide them with accurate information from federal and state government agencies.
  • Offer additional information: Whether it’s in person or via email, ask your workers if they're interested in more information related to coronavirus vaccines. If there is specific information they’re looking for, help them find those answers.
  • Encourage them to speak with medical professionals: If you’ve provided employees with all the information you have and they’re still on the fence about getting vaccinated, allow them to visit a doctor. Work around their schedule so they don’t have to use their paid time off.

2. Compensate Hourly Employees

Hourly employees may not want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because they don’t want to take time off from work. They understand that it may require them to take off half a day from work, and would rather spend that time working to earn money. However, compensating them for the time it takes to get their coronavirus vaccine could encourage them to get vaccinated. They will appreciate that they can take time off to receive the vaccine without their income being affected.

3. Offer Paid Time Off

Large corporations like American Airlines and Marriott are providing employees with a paid vacation once they receive their vaccine. You can do the same for your business. Just implement guidelines on when staff members can use the vacation day and how far in advance they need to let management know. You want to avoid having all of your employees take a day off on the same day.

4. Award Bonuses

Businesses like to give their employees performance or end-of-year bonuses because it’s an effective way to motivate them. Many restaurant owners are aware of that which has led them to give bonuses to workers who get vaccinated.

In a restaurant, you have tipped and non-tipped employees. This makes it crucial to find a way to offer each type of employee a fair and reasonable bonus. Below is an example of how you can incentivize tipped and non-tipped workers with bonuses.

  • Tipped workers: A bonus of 5 hours at your restaurant’s standard minimum wage pay rate.
  • Non-tipped workers: A bonus of 5 hours of pay at the employee’s regular pay rate.

5. Give Personalized Gifts

The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on restaurants. Many of them are not able to afford bonuses or expensive gift cards for vaccinated employees. However, establishments are getting creative with their incentives by offering small personalized gifts.

Personalized gifts allow you to showcase your appreciation for each team member. Although it may be a small gift, each person will be reminded of your thoughtfulness every time they see the gift. If you are unsure of what type of gift to give an individual, below are some customizable gift ideas:

  • Aprons
  • Cooking utensils
  • Chef hats
  • Coffee mugs
  • Cutting boards
  • Pens


6. Consider Individuals With Medical & Religious Exemptions

There are individuals in your company who may have medical or religious exemptions from receiving the vaccine. Those staff members should still be allowed to earn the incentives you’re offering. You can accommodate employees with vaccine exemptions by offering a COVID-19 training program. The program could be an in-person presentation or online video that outlines the actions individuals can take to reduce the likelihood of contracting and spreading COVID-19.