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How to encourage customers to mask up

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In the wake of coronavirus cases continuing to rise nationally, the state of Washington now requires all residents to wear masks when out in public and requires businesses to refuse service to customers who refuse to mask up. The ‘no mask, no service’ order seems simple, but for restaurants trying to balance hospitality with public health, it can be daunting.

The Washington State Department of Health has put together this FAQ about face masks and the order from the Secretary of Health.

So, how do you effectively inform guests and employees of this order? Here are some best practices:

Start with Signage: Help customers become aware of the order by displaying signage in a highly visible location at the entrance to your business that explains how to stay safe, by starting with a mask. Print and post this easy flyer from the Washington Hospitality Association that features mask use upfront and includes language from the state order.

Polite and Positive: Greet customers on entry to address the issue as they enter the business. If an employee or other representative of the business encounters a customer or visitor without a facial covering, the business representative should politely draw the customer or visitor’s attention to the public health requirement to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering.

Provide a Mask: If feasible, keep a supply of inexpensive disposable masks to offer customers or guests who don’t have one and keep comments to a minimum to avoid drawing attention.

If they refuse: If the person indicates that they have a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, that is an exemption.

  • If the individual indicates that they have a relevant medical condition or disability, make no further inquiry about their condition.
  • Exceptions to the order are children under the age of five, and adults with medical or mental health conditions, or a disability that prevents wearing a face mask. This includes but is not limited to persons for whom wearing a face-covering could obstruct breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
  • Make sure employees know that if a guest tells them they are having difficulty hearing or understanding them with the mask, it is appropriate to step farther away and lift or remove the mask.

Offer Curbside Service: If the individual indicates they do not have a relevant medical condition or disability (or refuses to answer) but refuses to wear a mask, politely inform them that, due to a state order, the business cannot serve them and that they need to leave the premises. Follow your normal procedures to remove the customer from the premises if they refuse to leave.