The past few weeks have been very exciting as several new COVID-19 vaccines have revealed their trial studies and shown their effectiveness. As of the writing of this article, three vaccines have revealed the results of their trials, and they are seeking approval through the FDA. Anyone that owns a bar or restaurant is waiting for news about how this will impact their reopenings now and in the future. While vaccines will be a vast step forward, we have to collectively remember to temper our expectations with patience as we eye a return to normalcy. Here is what you need to keep in mind as you ponder the potential impact of vaccines.
Restaurant Industry Outlook
Three different vaccines have been unveiled along with their efficacy rates throughout the trials. Two of them are 90%+ effective, and a new one is hovering around 70% effective. These results are from government-approved trials that used real human subjects and tracked the way that the vaccine prevents the virus from taking root in humans. During this phase, which we are currently in, there are not going to be many changes for restaurant reopenings. In fact, all we can do is bask in the optimism of the moment and look at the plans for distributing the vaccine when it becomes more widely available. Large scale vaccinations are planned in several states, but the effects for restaurants will be minimal until the next step begins. That is when vaccines are not only widely available, but they are frequently adopted by people.
Herd Immunity Via Vaccine Requires Time and Patience
The next stage of reopening will begin when the vaccine becomes widely available to people and they start becoming immunized. During this time, restaurants will likely get the go-ahead to relax some of the rules that have been put in place during the pandemics and lockdowns. Immunizations will likely lead to governments allowing indoor dining once again, even in places where it’s currently disallowed. That being said, some places have indoor dining guidelines that limit them to 25% of their occupancy. Those numbers are expected to rise, but it’s not entirely clear at what stage of the vaccine rollout that will become a reality.
During this phase, restaurants will still likely need to practice a lot of caution because people will begin to let their guard down. It takes time for a community to get the kind of herd immunity to the virus that is required for states to feel comfortable encouraging people to sit nearby again. Thus, during the time that the vaccine is rolling out and being administered, you can expect that more restaurants will be given the green light to open. However, it is highly likely that your business will need to have people wearing masks to come in and be seated. Other precautions such as temperature checks and social distancing are also likely to be included during this time.
If your business is closed now and gets the opportunity to reopen during this phase, it is imperative to stay on top of any COVID-related issues. You do not want your business to be the epicenter of a new community outbreak.
All that being said, when vaccines hit the market, it will be a time for optimism and celebration. Even the stock market has taken notice of the vaccines coming to market, sending restaurants and related supply chain stocks soaring. When the people that stand to make money off restaurants begin investing once again, that’s a good sign that we’ll soon be on the cusp of cautious reopenings and progress.
The Endgame: Normalcy May Not Be Possible for a Time
At some point in the future, most likely next year, the vaccines will roll out in four phases. The vast majority of people will have the vaccine offered to them during 2021. Based on the efficacy of the vaccine trials, it seems as though most people can get near-immunity to the virus, much in the same way that people benefit from other vaccines.
While that will make most people want to immediately leave their home and celebrate with others, the fact is that restaurants and any large gathering places will need to practice cautious optimism. The idea of normal that we had pre-COVID might not be possible until we have a better idea of the way that the vaccine works.
During that interval, there will most likely be many of the familiar hallmarks of COVID-style restaurant operation. Customers and workers will probably still need to wear their masks. This might work to the restaurants’ benefit as it will be hard to coax people to come out and eat again if everyone is maskless during the rollout of the vaccine. During this time, it’s also probable that restaurants will be allowed to seat more people. In fact, restaurants will likely see 50-75% indoor seating until data is available that shows the vaccine alone is enough to stop the spread of the virus.
The return to normalcy will be a long process for restaurants. While some people might jump the gun and use the vaccine as a reason to get right back into business, it’s a better idea to exercise caution. However, nobody can blame restaurant and bar owners for getting a little extra excited during this last phase.
The vaccines that have been revealed in recent weeks appear to be the key to allowing people to get back to business as usual. Restaurants and bars, two areas hardest hit by the pandemic, are now waiting patiently for news about how these vaccines will impact their sector. Based on the available information, there are many reasons to be optimistic about reopenings going into 2021. The vaccine development process was fast, and administering them will likely be expedited for the sake of saving lives and businesses alike. For now, restaurants are in a short-term holding pattern. The markets reflect the optimism that many have, and that alone is a sign of good things to come.