How To Deal With Customers Who Refuse To Wear Masks

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As a restauranteur operating during a pandemic, one of your goals is to make customers feel safe and at home as soon as they walk into your establishment. In order to do this, many restaurants have implemented face mask requirements as part of their policy to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While patrons, in general, will follow your policies, some patrons may refuse to wear masks because of their personal convictions or medical conditions. If a customer refuses to wear a mask inside your foodservice establishment, you should be adept to handle the situation in a way that makes all parties happy. To find a solution in a professional manner, follow our steps on how to handle anti-mask customers.

Answers To Common Questions

Before learning how to deal with anti-mask customers, you probably have some questions that need to be answered first. Take a look below to find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions that are essential in these types of situations.

Can You Refuse Service To Someone Not Wearing A Mask?

If your restaurant policy or local laws require patrons to wear face masks, you can refuse customer service to patrons. Any private company can deny service as long as they are implementing mask-wearing policies in a non-discriminatory way, such as requiring everyone to wear face masks.

Can A Business Require Customers To Wear A Mask?

Private companies can require patrons to wear a mask and can prohibit anti-mask patrons from entering their establishment. As an operator, you are allowed to deny service if you think a customer might risk the safety and comfort of your staff or clientele.

Can A Business Refuse Service For Not Wearing A Mask If Customers Have A Medical Condition?

If a customer claims to have a medical condition that makes it difficult to wear a mask, find alternative ways to serve this guest instead of asking them to leave. You can ask them to wear a face shield, offer curbside or delivery service, or serve them in any other way that makes it comfortable and safe for them and the rest of your customers.

How To Handle Anti-Mask Customers

1. Implement Mask Wearing Policies In Your Establishment

The best way to avoid confrontation with an anti-mask customer is to have mask-wearing policies in place before opening or reopening your restaurant. Inform guests that you require face masks to be worn by posting policies on your:

  • Website
  • Social media accounts
  • Signage
  • Menu

Make it clear beyond a doubt that your establishment requires face masks to be worn while customers are inside your restaurant. And don’t forget to inform patrons on what they should do with masks while they’re eating. For instance, you may provide face mask bags so customers can safely put their masks away while dining. Because guests want to enjoy their meals when they go to a restaurant, most of them will be happy to oblige to your policies.

2. Know Your Rights As A Business Owner

Research what your state and local laws allow and prohibit when it comes to dealing with a customer that refuses to wear a mask. For example, some states allow operators to ask for medical documentation to prove if a mask will cause discomfort to someone with a pre-existing medical condition. But this is not the case in every state, which is why you should be aware of the legal boundaries you face when handling an anti-mask customer.

3. Calmly Communicate With Your Customer

When a customer seems upset, show a calm demeanor and demonstrate that you are willing to listen to them. By doing so, your customer will most likely copy your behavior and begin communicating with you in a productive manner.

Always allow your guest to speak first and really pay attention to what they’re saying. Inform them of your policies and think of ways to resolve their complaints or objection. Offer solutions both of you will be satisfied with.

4. Stay Neutral

Whether you agree with your customer’s opinions or not, do not engage in an argument with them. This might escalate the situation and cause your customer to become hostile. Keep the conversation focused on finding a solution, and as always, inform your patrons of your restaurant's policies on face masks.

5. Observe Your Customer’s Body Language

If a customer doesn’t seem to calm down, monitor their body language for any warning signs of impending violence, such as clenched fists, a raised voice, or inappropriate language. While none of these signs guarantee violence (your customer might just have an excitable personality), maintain your distance by creating a barrier with a table or counter between you and your customer.

Should you feel threatened, alert the police immediately. It’s best if you contact the authorities before any form of assault occurs. This way, local authorities will help you resolve the matter before it gets any worse.

What If I’m Being Recorded?

In this day and age, it is not uncommon for customers to record heated interactions inside of a business and upload the video to social media. So if you notice you’re being recorded on camera, calmly state that you do not feel comfortable being recorded or inform whoever is filming that photos and videos are not permitted in your establishment (if that is part of your policy). As long as you keep your composure and follow these rules, you should be safe from any negative reactions towards you or your business should a video be uploaded online.

If you believe your business could suffer backlash from an uploaded video, contact the platform in which the video was published and let them know you have a legal or privacy complaint. If the platform deems your complaint as valid, they will remove the video.

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