BUSINESS + ECONOMY

In-N-Out banning masks to improve customer service

Jul 19, 2023, 3:00 PM | Updated: Jul 21, 2023, 11:25 am

in-n-out workers serve customers at counter, the chain will ban masks for employees...

The new Orem In-N-Out Burger restaurant is fully staffed on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009 (Stuart Johnson/Deseret News)

(Stuart Johnson/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Popular fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger is barring employees from wearing face masks during shifts in an effort to emphasize and improve customer service. 

According to a memo sent to employees, the company said these new mask guidelines will help “promote clear and effective communication both with our Customers and among our Associates.”

Removing masks will also “promote clear and effective communication both with our Customers and among our Associates,” the report explained.

The policy requires workers to obtain a valid medical note in order to wear a mask. It must also detail the reason for exemption and the estimated duration that a mask must be worn. If approved, the worker must wear a company-provided N-95 mask unless specifically exempted by the doctor.

Failure to adhere to the new policy “may result in appropriate disciplinary action,” states the memo. “Up to and including termination of employment.”

The new policy will be effective August 14. The new requirements apply in five states— Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas.

In-N-Out also has locations in California and Oregon, but local laws prohibit any business from banning masks.

Reactions

One In-N-Out customer, Nate, said he understands their reasoning but doesn’t see why it needs to be a required policy.

“I think it’s a little bit odd that they would require a doctor’s note for them to wear a mask because I think it’s important that we have safety,” he said adding, “I think it’s important that if there’s any type of illness or any type of concern they should have the opportunity to wear a mask regardless of whether the doctor says so or not.”

Customer Tia Bunker believes this policy change is within the company’s rights.

“It should be up to In-N-Out. They’re the employer.”

She explained further that, “the employee should be able to read what is possible and required, and then decide if they want to work here.”

Drive-through employee Kaeden said he isn’t too concerned about the policy, as long as it doesn’t affect him too harshly.

“I don’t really find it as a major problem. I understand the security and I guess it’s not really a bother for me. And I understand some people take it pretty seriously, and they have their health issues, but I don’t really worry about it.”

Other consumers believe that wearing a mask or not wearing a mask should be up to the individual.

“I’m all about choice. If people want to wear masks, they should wear masks. And people that don’t want to wear masks should never have to wear a mask,” said In-N-Out customer Sheldon.

In-N-Out’s Covid history

This is not the first time the company has made a stand against Covid requirements.

In 2021, a California location temporarily shut its doors because it didn’t want to adhere to the mandate to verify customers’ vaccination status that was required at the time for indoor dining.

A statement from In-N-Out at the time explained, “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government. It is unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe to force our restaurant associates to segregate customers into those who may be served and those who may not.”

In-N-Out’s statement

In-N-Out emailed an official statement to KSL NewsRadio on Friday, credited to Chief Operating Officer Denny Warnick.

“At In-N-Out Burger, we’ve communicated with our smiles since 1948, and a smiling Associate helps to set a warm and inviting atmosphere in our stores. We believe that wearing a mask literally adds a barrier to communication – much of which is nonverbal — and promotes a more distant and disconnected environment.

In balancing these fundamental values while still accommodating the specific circumstances affecting our Associates, we have updated our internal guidelines to permit only those Associates with a medical need to wear a facemask while working. This change will be effective August 14, 2023, where local regulations allow.”

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In-N-Out banning masks to improve customer service