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LA Mandates Proof of Vax; Digital Ordering Prompts Smoothie Renaissance

Los Angeles has joined the cities mandating proof of vaccination for entry into restaurants and other indoor venues, after the city council voted 11-2 on Wednesday (Oct. 6) to approve the ordinance, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

“These new rules will encourage more people to get the shot, and make businesses safer for workers and customers — so that we can save more lives, better protect the vulnerable and make our communities even safer as we fight this pandemic,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement.

On the other hand, one of the two votes against, Councilmember John Lee, commented in a Facebook post, “This ordinance is punitive toward businesses, doesn’t provide an incentive to encourage those who are unvaccinated to get the vaccine and only furthers the patchwork of regulations that exist across the region.”

The lost sales opportunity for restaurants is roughly equal, whether they mandate proof of vaccination or not. A National Restaurant Association survey of 1,000 consumers conducted in August found that 33% of respondents would be more likely to dine indoors if the restaurant required them to show proof of vaccination, whereas 32% said it would make them less likely. Either way, restaurants could lose about a third of their indoor dining customers.

Additionally, there are safety risks for restaurants, both in checking for proof of vaccine and in not checking.

“There’s a lot of anxiety,” Andrew Robbins, co-founder and CEO of SaaS customer experience management solutions provider Paytronix, said of the current climate among restaurant operators in an interview with Karen Webster. “There’s anxiety from putting your frontline staff at risk, and you can put them at risk because of the delta variant. You can also put them at risk by trying to enforce this stuff.”

You may also like: Vaccine Mandates Are a Lose-Lose for Frontline Restaurant Workers, Says Paytronix CEO

TGI Fridays Adding 300 Ghost Kitchen as Part of Digital Expansion

As ghost kitchens rapidly evolve from an experimental new model to a mainstay of the restaurant industry, TGI Fridays is getting onboard. The company announced on Friday (Oct. 8) that it will open 300 delivery-only locations in North America and abroad throughout the next five years.

“Our partnership with REEF brings with it a unique opportunity to deliver Fridays to more guests around the world,” Ray Blanchette, the restaurant brand’s CEO, said in a statement. “REEF is essentially a launching pad to deliver that Fridays feeling while prioritizing convenience and quality.”

This partnership appears to be part of a broader push from the company to invest in emerging restaurant technologies. In August, it was reported that the parent company of TGI Fridays, TriArtisan, had invested $10 million in backing food technology platform C3, a company that has developed omnichannel food halls, created over 40 restaurant brands and launched a digital ordering app, among other ventures.

See also: Restaurant Roundup: TGI Friday’s, Hooters Parent Invests $10M in C3

PYMNTS research from the 2021 Restaurant Readiness Index, created in collaboration with Paytronix, finds that slightly over one-quarter of all restaurant sales are now delivery orders placed via a restaurant’s website or purchases made through a third-party aggregator, and about two-thirds of restaurant sales come through off-premise channels.

Related news: QSRs’ Lagging Loyalty-Reward Investment Hurts Innovation and Sales

Smoothie Sales Soar in 2021, Bolstered by Digital Ordering Boom

This week, three smoothie chains reported strong third-quarter sales, which they attributed in part to the popularity of their digital channels.

Smoothie King, which has 1,300 locations in the U.S. and abroad, saw sales increase by 18% year to date over 2020 levels, the company announced on Wednesday (Oct. 6). In the announcement, the brand stated that this uptick is “partly attributed to the strong digital performance the brand has seen,” citing its rewards program, its digital ordering tools, its availability on third parties and its drive-thru digital tablets as drivers of this success.

Tropical Smoothie Café, which has over 1,000 locations across the country, reported a 25% year-to-date increase in same-store sales over 2020, noting that digital channels made up 75% of the restaurant’s growth during the quarter, according to an announcement on Thursday (Oct. 7).

Smaller juice and smoothie chain Juice It Up saw a 35% year-to-date increase in same-store sales, per a QSR Web report on Wednesday (Oct. 6). According to the chain’s leadership, digital sales are approaching 20% following the launch of the chain’s app.

To Keep Restaurants Running During Labor Shortage, Raising Cane’s Sets Corporate Staff to Work

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, a quick-service chicken restaurant with over 500 restaurants across 28 states and several international markets, is taking unprecedented measures to keep restaurants in operation as it attempts to hire 10,000 new employees. Bloomberg reported on Tuesday (Oct. 5) that the chain is placing around half of its corporate employees in restaurants, having them fill in as fry cooks and cashiers, among other positions.

“It’s no secret that today’s hiring market is a challenge,” the restaurant’s Co-CEO AJ Kumaran commented. “Ahead of our massive growth next year, having the support we need is critical.”

During the summer, it was reported that Chick-fil-A is closing dining rooms in response to the labor shortage, while Subway and 7-Eleven have been facing public criticism from franchisees about how restaurants’ corporate offices are functioning in this difficult time.

Read more: Labor Shortages Challenge QSRs’ Franchisee Relationships, Threatening Sales and Loyalty

And also: Restaurants Adapt for Workforce With Fewer Humans, More Robots 

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