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Independent restaurants and multi-concept groups are preparing their approaches toward incentives for workers to get the COVID-19 vaccinations.

How an independent restaurant group is approaching worker vaccines

D.C.-based Knead Hospitality to offer paid time off in COVID pandemic plan

Smaller and independent restaurant groups, like their big-chain brethren, are offering incentives for employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available.

Washington, D.C.-based Knead Hospitality + Design, which owns and operates such concepts as Gatsby, The Grill, Mi Vida, Mah Ze Dahr and Succotash in the capital city area, plans incentives for workers in the pandemic, a spokesperson said this week, though vaccinations are not a requirement.

“Knead Hospitality + Design is incentivizing employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by offering compensation for those that take it,” she said, explaining the paid-time-off policy.

“Full-time employees will receive a full day of PTO for both doses received,” the spokesperson said, “and hourly employees will be offered the equivalent number of hours of compensation at their hourly wage (two hours per dose received).”

Knead Hospitality calculated that 320 employees are eligible to receive the vaccine. With additional openings planned, the company expects that may rise to 800 staff members.

In early January, Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., said that the city’s restaurant workers have been classified as “other essential workers,” or 1-c, and will have a target vaccination eligibility date of Feb. 1. Residents living in Virginia and Maryland will also be eligible for the vaccinations.

Earlier this week, Darden Restaurants Inc. said it would be offering its hourly workers up to four hours of pay as incentive to get both of the COVID-19 vaccines when they become available.

The Orlando, Fla.-based company, parent to more than 1,800 casual-dining brands such as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and others, will compensate workers two hours of pay for each dose of the vaccine they receive, said Gene Lee, Darden CEO and chairman, in a memo to team members.

“The COVID-19 vaccine will be a critical tool in helping end this pandemic, which will allow us to welcome more guests and team members back into our restaurants,” Lee wrote.

“We recognize getting vaccinated is a personal decision that you alone can make,” Lee told employees. “While we will not require hourly team members to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, we strongly encourage you consider getting vaccinated.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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