The Price Of PPE For Restaurant Owners: How Service-Based Businesses Cope With The Pandemic

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Should restaurants and other service-based businesses, such as fast food and coffee shops, make mask-wearing compulsory? Even though it’s impossible to eat at a restaurant while wearing a mask, the question of whether to enforce masks in service industries remains controversial. Restaurants do have to provide face protection for employees, such as waiters, cooks, and cleaners. Restaurant owners must make critical decisions in regards to how they spend money on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and how they distribute masks to employees.

  • Each state has its own regulation in regard to personal equipment required in service industries for customers and workers. Most states agree that restaurants must have supplies, such as face masks, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizers, while they’re operating.

However, in states with many infection cases, such as California and New York, these items are in short supply and they’re very costly – especially for business owners who must then replenish their stock every few days. With most restaurants struggling to pay rent and make a profit in the takeout/delivery market, the cost of PPE can be too much to bear. While it’s possible to order masks from the internet, pharmacies tend to run out quickly, and even restaurants that can afford them find them in short supply.

The Price Of PPE For Restaurant Owners

The price of PPE has stabilized, and restaurant owners currently have a range of options in order to protect employees and customers. For instance, a pack of 50 disposable surgical masks can now be purchased for $15-20 on average, while these masks would cost as much as a few dollars each during the height of the pandemic.

The most popular option for restaurant employees was the respirator N95 mask, which once sold for as much as $200/piece, even though it cost $10 pre-pandemic. Restaurant owners can now choose between disposable surgical masks that cost $15/pack, but are only for single-use, or they can invest in respirator masks, such as DittoMask, that provide infinite use and respiratory filtering.

Depending on the number of cases, many states and municipalities are now lifting their stay at home orders and restrictions. In the restaurant business, certain municipalities are allowing dine-in services instead of delivery services exclusively (as was the case until recently). Estimates are that the price for protective equipment will remain the same in future months, and restaurants will pay billions for protective equipment over the course of the year.

Restaurant Workers Making A Comeback

Millions of laid-off workers will return to the workforce shortly, and business owners must provide them with adequate protection. In the future, we’ll find out whether the expenses for personal protection will grow while industry revenue keeps up with the pace.

If dining services don’t re-open in most  states soon, it is expected that almost as many as 50% of restaurants will have to close. Restaurants are going to need help from the government to purchase PPE for workers, which can cost thousands of dollars each month. Restaurants will also have to think about how long they’ll need to use masks – it’s likely that workers will have to wear masks until the end of 2020 at the earliest, despite restrictions being lifted.

This can increase the total cost as owners will have to replenish their PPE stock weekly or monthly. The only workaround in this situation is to purchase more expensive respirator masks that can be reused by employees. Most restaurants, that currently only offer takeout, are losing money and many of them will fail if they’re only allowed to do delivery.

Restaurant owners bear the cost of protective equipment, which mirrors the cost of delivery services. Popular apps, such as Uber Eats, that deliver food for restaurant owners, charge between 10-30% of the total order, which further cuts into their profit margins.