Some 96% of the restaurants surveyed around the country in July by industry newsletter Restaurant Dive reported that they required their employees to wear masks while working. Many supermarket chains had similar rules in place. The policy is now increasingly extending to customers as well.
As of mid-August, the governments of some 34 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, had mandated the wearing of protective masks or other face coverings in public places — including restaurants, stores, and hotel common areas — according to a state-by-state guide to face mask requirements published by AARP.
In addition, a growing number of major national and regional restaurant and supermarket chains have issued systemwide mask orders of their own — even though many of their locations were already subject to the statewide mandates. Chains that have taken this extra step include Starbucks, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Shake Shack, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods.
The public hasn’t always appreciated the new measures. For whatever reasons, mask-wearing (or not-wearing) has become a political issue — and a sometimes violently emotional one. In July, for instance, two customers at a Manhattan branch of Trader Joe’s not only refused to wear masks, but also ripped the mask off an employee in protest, hit another one with a wooden paddle, and pulled a third one’s hair. The same month, a cashier at a McDonald’s drive-thru window in Oakland, California, was assaulted — through the window — by a man who resented being asked to cover his face.
Numerous other examples of mask rage have been recorded around the country, with some establishments actually closing down rather than risking harassment or worse from angry anti-mask customers. (The mask issue isn’t the only reason some places are shutting down. These are states where recently reopened bars and dining rooms are closing again.)
The good news is that, angry mask-haters aside, the general populace seems to be getting used to wearing masks in public. A Harris Poll published last month found that 76% of Americans believe that retail businesses in general — not just restaurants and supermarkets — should institute customer mask policies, with 78% feeling that workers should be prepared to enforce them. (Already, these national stores require customers to wear face masks.)
In most cases, corporate policies introduced by restaurant and supermarket chains went into effect in late July or early August. Most mandates cite exceptions based on age or health conditions, and for obvious reasons, restaurant customers don’t have to keep their faces covered when they’re actually eating or drinking.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement released in mid-July. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting.” That certainly would include restaurants and grocery stores.
All 2,252 supermarkets Albertsons operates nationwide — under its own brand as well as such brands as Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Jewel-Osco, Acme, and Shaws — began requiring customers to don face coverings on July 21. The company website says the policy is for the customers’ protection and for that of the associates.
Effective July 27, ALDI discount supermarkets began requiring that both customers and staff at all stores wear masks, as “an enhanced safety measure intended to help limit the spread of COVID-19,” as a corporate statement put it. The company urges customers unable or unwilling to wear a face covering to use the ALDI delivery service or, where available, curbside pickup.
As of Aug. 5, the ice cream chain began mandating “a face covering while inside our restaurants” for all customers. In its statement announcing the policy, the company went on to say, “This simple step … will help to provide a safe environment for guests, franchisees and their restaurant employees.”
Chipotle Mexican Grill
In a statement to the trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News, Chipotle chief corporate affairs and food safety officer Laurie Schalow announced that the chain had “proactively made the decision to require guests to wear masks in all restaurants.” The requirement went into effect on July 24.
Dunkin’ (formerly Dunkin’ Donuts) joined the ranks of restaurant chains requiring customers to wear masks on Aug. 5. “We believe that wearing a mask is a simple step we can all take to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and help to keep guests and restaurant crew safe,” says a statement on the chain’s website. In a reference to its longtime slogan “America Runs on Dunkin’,” the site includes a graphic depicting a Dunkin’-themed mask with the legend “Join us in wearing a mask to help keep America runnin’.”
This massive San Antonio-based grocery chain, whose only American stores are in Texas (it also operates in Mexico), introduced its statewide mask mandate for customers as of July 1. “[A]s Texans Helping Texans,” reads a statement from the company, “we wear masks to keep each other and our families safe.” H.E.B.’s high-end Central Market chain, which has nine stores around Texas, instituted its own mask requirement on June 22.
Hilton Hotel restaurants
“In accordance with CDC guidelines,” reads a statement on the Hilton website, “we are requiring face coverings in all indoor public areas of our hotels throughout the U.S. for guests and Team Members.” The measure, which includes hotel dining areas, took effect on July 28.
Hyatt Hotel restaurants
“NOTE: face coverings are required in hotel indoor public areas and when moving around in outdoor areas at all Hyatt hotels in the Americas,” says a statement on the Hyatt website. The policy, encompassing dining rooms as well as other public spaces, was instituted as of Aug. 10.
America’s second-largest grocery company and largest supermarket chain (Walmart sells more groceries, along with many other items), Kroger mandated the wearing of face masks for customers on July 22. The policy applies not only to Kroger stores but also to other chains under the Kroger corporate umbrella, including Ralphs, Smith’s, Fred Meyer, and Harris Teeter.
Marriott Hotel restaurants
Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, announced in a video message from company CEO Arne Sorenson that masks would be required in all indoor areas (restaurants included) as of July 27. Wearing masks, said Sorenson, “is one of the easiest steps that we can all take to protect one another and reduce the spread of COVID-19.” The requirement applies to all of the company’s U.S. and Canadian properties, including more than 25 Marriott brands, among them Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, W Hotels, Westin, and Sheraton.
As of Aug. 1, McDonald’s began requiring customers to wear face coverings when entering its U.S. restaurants. The company statement announcing the policy notes that more than 80% of its locations are in states or localities where masks had already been mandated. Customers who enter without a mask, the chain told CNN Business, “will be offered one by an employee. If they refuse to wear it, they’ll be asked to stand at a designated spot, away from other customers, where they’ll receive their orders.”
Noodles & Co.
“Effective Wednesday, July 22,” reads a statement on the website of this internationally themed pasta chain, “all team members and guests who visit Noodles & Company will be required to wear a face covering inside all company-owned locations.”
This supermarket chain, with stores throughout Florida and other Southern states, initiated a customer mask requirement on July 21. According to a statement on the company website, “We have previously encouraged our customers to follow CDC guidance and have now implemented a face covering requirement in our stores to do our part and help protect our communities.”
On July 29, the fast casual American-Chinese chain Panda Express issued a statement saying, “We ask guests to respect our safety protocol and wear face masks when visiting our restaurants.” The company website adds, “Let’s stay safe together…”
In a statement dated July 15, Panera announced that “guests are asked to wear a mask inside our bakery-cafes nationwide … [to] ensure the safety of our associates and guests …” The statement adds that “If any customer does not have or want to wear a mask for any reason, we will happily serve them via Panera Curbside, Delivery or Drive-Thru.”
On July 30, this popular burger chain noted in a COVID-19 update on its website, “With the well-being of our communities as our guide, we’ve been adapting our Shacks to ensure the safety of our guests and team members.” Among other things, the statement specifies, this means that “Masks are required for all guests, team members + delivery couriers.”
“In its continued effort in prioritizing the health and well-being of partners (employees) and customers,” reads a statement on the ubiquitous coffee chain’s website, “Starbucks today announced that beginning on July 15, it will be requiring customers to wear facial coverings while visiting all company-owned café locations in the US.”
“We require customers wear a face covering while shopping in our stores,” says a statement by the chain. Interestingly, the chain provides masks to “crew members” (as it styles its employees) but is only “urging that they use them.”
As of July 20, the upscale Amazon-owned grocery chain has required all customers to wear face coverings “to protect the health and safety of our Team Members and communities,” according to the website. Masks are provided for customers who don’t have their own.
The chain, which operates supermarkets in seven Southern states under several banners, began requiring customers to mask up on July 27. It had initially refused to make the practice mandatory on the grounds that — as a company spokesperson told CBS News — “Mask mandates are a highly charged issue with our customers …” The company still maintains that state and federal officials should pass mask laws instead of relying on individual companies to declare and enforce the policy.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts restaurants
The major hotel group requires that “guests and all other individuals entering the hotel wear a mask or face covering when in indoor public areas.” Restaurants are included in the mandate, which extends to all the company’s U.S. and Canadian properties. Wyndam’s mask requirement went into effect on Aug. 10.