Aggressive anti-mask customers are forcing some restaurants to shut dining rooms to protect employees from abuse
Some restaurants are shutting down or closing dining rooms back up after employees faced harassment and violence from anti-mask customers. Restaurants in states, including Texas, California, and Michigan, have announced plans to once again shutter dining rooms due to rude customers who refused to wear masks. Other restaurants are struggling to find ways to protect employees without closing dining rooms or shutting down entirely. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
As restaurants contemplate reopening dining rooms across the US, some are facing a new concern — how aggressive anti-mask customers might treat employees. Numerous restaurants across the US have decided to close dining rooms after reopening or shut down entirely due to anti-mask customers' treatment of workers. Hugo's Taco closed both of its locations in Los Angeles in late June due to combative customers who refused to wear masks. "Staff have been harassed, called names, and had objects and liquids thrown at them," Hugo's Tacos said in a statement posted on social media. "A mask isn't symbolic of anything other than our desire to keep our staff healthy." Los Angeles requires people to wear a mask whenever they're in public, which includes trips to taco stands and other restaurants. But, enforcing these requirements can fall on restaurant workers. Hugo's Tacos said that the majority of customers have been respectful and kind, and hundreds have contributed to a GoFundMe that raised roughly $45,000 for Hugo's Tacos' staff. Still, for Hugo's Tacos and other restaurants, the handful of anti-mask customers are too much of a risk. GOODONYA Organic Eatery in Encinitas, California, announced this week that it will once again stop offering dine-in service, due to customers lashing out at workers who asked them to wear masks. In Houston, Texas, Eater reports Chow Wok did the same after growing tired of "unruly customers" who stormed out when asked to wear a mask. Halcomb's Taco Casa in Pocahontas, Arkansas, recently announced similar plans to close its dining room, as did Mexican Fiesta in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. "Unfortunately, there were multiple situations where our staff was disrespected and treated rudely," Mexican Fiesta wrote in a statement on Facebook. "The safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority so we have made the tough decision of closing our doors to the general public until further notice."
Research increasingly indicates that wearing masks can greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Business Insider's Aria Bendix reports. One model from the University of Washington predicts that if 95% of the population in the US wears masks, it could prevent roughly 33,000 coronavirus deaths by October. As more restaurants are allowed to reopen dining rooms, many are struggling to find ways to deal with anti-mask customers short of shutting down altogether. Some restaurants, including major chains such as Waffle House, have posted signs about social distancing and (in areas with mask requirements) face coverings. Waffle House and Dunkin' are also among the chains that have started selling branded face masks to customers. While rude customers are nothing new, some conflicts linked to masks have put employees in dangerous situations. In May, a customer shot an employee at a Waffle House in Aurora, Colorado, after being turned away for not wearing a mask. This week, a McDonald's employee from Oakland, California, was hospitalized after being assaulted by a customer who refused to wear a mask, she told Business Insider. "In 30-plus years of studying retail and crisis situations, we have never seen a situation of customers being so rude to hourly employees," Larry Barton, a professor of crisis management and public safety at the University of Central Florida, told Business Insider's Mary Hanbury in May.SEE ALSO: Workers at chains like Kroger, Costco, and Waffle House are on the front lines of an increasingly violent war between mask supporters and opponents Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
More like this (3)
Chains like Ruby Tuesday and Red Robin's will never recover until indoor dining fully reopens, as restaurant closures loom
Casual dining chains' recovery is moving at a "lumbering pace," according to a report released by...Casual dining chains' recovery is moving at a "lumbering pace," according to a report released by Gordon Haskett on Friday. Chains like Red Robin and Ruby Tuesday's sales are hindered by capacity limits, which will continue in most areas until there is a COVID-19 vaccine. The loss of an extra $600 in federal unemployment benefits and the disappearance of outdoor seating due to colder weather in some states will only make recovery more difficult in the coming months. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Casual dining's recovery is moving at a "lumbering pace." And, it's not expected to speed up any time soon. The stagnant recovery of chains such as The Cheesecake Factory, Applebee's, and Red Robin will be "almost entirely driven by increased capacity limits" in the coming months, according to a report released by Gordon Haskett on Friday. Analyst Jeff Farmer said in the report that most chains have already aggressively built out outdoor seating, added restaurant partitions, and boosted off-premise sales. As restaurants reach the limits of how much these new channels can bring in, chains' only hope for a full sales recovery is a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the report. While COVID-19 cases are declining across the US, Farmer says there are three factors that will make recovery more difficult in the coming months: Capacity limits on how many people can dine inside, which will continue in most states until there is a vaccine, widely available treatment, or elimination of new cases. Higher unemployment rates and the loss of the extra $600 in federal unemployment benefits, which helped boost restaurant sales earlier in the pandemic. Reduced flexibility around outdoor seating, as the weather gets colder in the fall. 'Winter is coming' — and that's bad news for casual dining chains Restaurant owners in areas with stricter limitations are already pushing back. This week, the NYC Hospitality Alliance threatened to sue the city or state over the current indoor dining ban. While the rest of New York state allows for indoor dining at 50% capacity, restaurants in New York City have been banned from opening dining rooms. Experts note that reopening dining rooms at 50% capacity will not allow most restaurants to build sales to their pre-pandemic figures. Reopening dining rooms also brings new costs that could ultimately result in the restaurant losing money if it doesn't operate at full capacity, industry expert John Gordon told Business Insider. Restaurants will have to invest in new safety features and hire more employees to reopen dining rooms. Read more: Shake Shack, Panera, and Chipotle open drive-thrus to keep up with fast-food rivals like McDonald's and Taco Bell Some chains have turned to outdoor dining as a potential solution, with Red Robin building out patio seating and Texas Roadhouse erecting tents in parking lots to seat customers outside. However, with fall weather approaching, restaurants cannot rely on outdoor dining forever. Some chains have already been forced to close locations during the pandemic. TGI Friday's could close up to 20% of its US restaurants, and Ruby Tuesday has quietly shuttered more than 150 restaurants since January. California Pizza Kitchen said in its bankruptcy filing that it had already closed a number of locations in recent months. "Get a vaccine, it'll turn around," said Robert Rattet, an attorney who specializes in bankruptcies. "Without a vaccine, you'll have more closures." "Winter is coming," Rattet added. SEE ALSO: Dunkin' is rolling out oat milk at locations across America, and people are celebrating Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
A number of large retailers have said that all customers must wear masks, but some employees...A number of large retailers have said that all customers must wear masks, but some employees have been told they cannot force those who refuse.
Walmart won't enforce its own rules on mask-wearing because it fears staff could be attacked by shoppers angry at being challenged
People who refuse to wear a face mask will be served in Walmart — and many...People who refuse to wear a face mask will be served in Walmart — and many other stores — despite it having imposed new mask rules, according to a CNN report. On July 20, Walmart began requiring masks to be worn in all its stores, as coronavirus cases spike again in many parts of the US. However, to avoid a "physical confrontation," staff have been instructed to serve people who refuse to wear one anyway, Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia told Business Insider. Home Depot, Lowe's, CVS, and Walgreens will also serve people refusing to wear them, according to CNN. Mask acceptance is increasing, but there have been several incidents of violence in stores and towards staff members from customers who object to mask rules. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Shoppers who refuse to wear a face mask to visit Walmart will still be served, as the company seeks to protect its staff from "a physical confrontation," according to a CNN report. Walmart had announced that as of July 20, face masks would be compulsory for all but those whose medical conditions prevent it, as Business Insider's Hayley Peterson reported. At least 27 other retailers have recently required the same thing. However, a training video seen by CNN tells management to let people who refuse to wear a mask "continue to shop." Home Depot, Lowe's, CVS, and Walgreens have also said they'll serve customers without masks, CNN reported. Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia said in a statement to Business Insider: "We know there may be situations that may not make it possible for everyone to wear a face covering." In those situations, "we will allow them to shop in our stores and clubs," she said. "Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation situation, and our ambassadors will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper," she added. Not enforcing masks makes it a "public relations stunt," according to one critic Walmart first announced its mask rule with a blog post explaining how it trained special "health ambassadors" whose job it is to stand at the store entrance and "remind those without a mask of our new requirements." The company said that it that ambassadors would seek solutions when people refuse and recognize that some cannot wear masks on health grounds. But the health ambassadors are told in a training video not to impede customers who refuse physically. Instead, they inform a manager, "so they can determine the next steps," according to CNN. The company does not rule out involving law enforcement, however. A Walmart spokesperson told CNN: "While we do try to find solutions for customers who are not wearing face coverings, from time to time, we do need to call police for assistance in those areas." Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, criticized the lack of firmer enforcement. He told CNN that if companies "are not requiring customers to wear a mask within their store, then they never had a requirement. All they had was a public relations stunt." Walmart did not offer Business Insider a comment on the criticism, and did not respond to inquiries about asking security staff to enforce the rule Masks are increasingly accepted — but it's still tough for retail workers A Gallup poll released on July 6 showed that mask-wearing had become increasingly accepted in the US, with 85% of people saying they had worn one. Only 11% say they have not considered it. In their stores, Garcia, Walmart's spokeswoman, emphasized that "virtually everyone either brings a mask or readily complies with the requirement." However, retail staff have borne the brunt of numerous violent outbursts from some customers who refuse. Viral videos have shown anti-mask shoppers having outbursts over the issue. In early July, one woman was filmed destroying a mask display in an Arizona Target, while another customer in an Oregon Costco sat on the floor and refused to leave in an anti-mask protest. The issue has led to injuries — in late June, a 19-year-old McDonald's worker in California was physically attacked and racially abused by a customer who had been asked to put on a mask, as Business Insider's Kate Taylor reported. CBS Los Angeles reported that the employee confronted the man on July 15 at Ralphs's grocery store in Central Los Angeles and told the man he had to wear a face-covering or leave the establishment, a guideline required by Los Angeles County. The man rammed the employee with a shopping cart, and in response "she pepper-sprayed him and called the police," according to the report. In its blog post, Walmart said that around 65% of its 5,000 stores are in areas where there is already a statewide mask mandate. But the Retail Industry Leaders Association, of which Walmart is a member, wrote to governors on July 6 to ask for it to be imposed consistently across 50 states, CNN reported. Join the conversation about this story »