In recent months, the Covid vaccine has become political – and therefore a heated topic of conversation. Across the country, a restaurant’s (or a municipality’s) decision to mandate vaccines for employees and/or guests has resulted in some unpleasant confrontations – between operators and employees and between guests and employees – and all at a time when restaurants are already struggling to attract and retain staff. While some of these confrontations have been difficult to avoid, a restaurant can decrease the likelihood of conflict by taking steps to communicate clearly, and in advance, with employees about vaccine mandates. A recent report from Human Resource Executive provides some tips. It’s most critical to get out in front of the mandate by discussing it with employees, listening to their concerns and providing them with ample lead time to act. If people are resisting, understand their concerns and personalize your communications around them – they may need to hear the message from someone they can more easily relate to. Also appreciate that an employee may have a valid reason to not get a vaccine, so speak to your legal advisor about how to frame communication about that with staff. In advance of a mandate, determine the consequences of not complying – this goes for employees as well as guests – and find gentle ways to communicate about it. Again here, it helps to get out in front of the mandate and avoid surprising a person with a consequence wherever possible. Finally, while President Biden’s rule about vaccine mandates has made this a more urgent topic of conversation at restaurants, try to keep your conversations with employees politically neutral and focused on the well-being of your team, business and the industry overall.