“Our staff are not trained or prepared to deal with angry, aggressive, or frustrated guests.”Karri Green-Schuermans
An interview with Karri Green-Schuermans
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
As the vaccine passport system has been implemented, restaurants have had to adjust to the new rules that have been imposed. The Other Press spoke with Karri Green-Schuermans, co-owner of Chambar restaurant to get a feel for how these mandates have affected the staff and the business [full disclosure: the author has previously been employed by Chambar restuarant].
When asked about the quality of the information provided by the BC government to restaurants, Green-Schuermans was clear: “Throughout the pandemic, the province has blindsided the restaurant sector with mandates. [This has been] without consideration for the lead times needed to implement them which creates stress, food waste and financial losses for an already hard-hit sector.” From her perspective, this lack of clear information has meant that restaurants are unaware of acceptable vaccine records for people from outside of the province and have no explanations for legitimate medical exemptions.
As co-owner and proprietor of a restaurant, Green-Schuermans believes that restaurants are meant to be welcoming and hospitable environments; as a result, it is her opinion that enforcing vaccine mandates contradicts the industries’ welcoming nature. She also notes that the restaurant industry was amongst the first to create a safety plan during the pandemic and continues to lead the way in ensuring workplace safety, saying: “Our staff are our greatest asset, and ensuring their safety is just as important for them as our guests.” However, she feels that the safety of staff members may be imperilled as a result of enforcing these rules.
When asked how these mandates could affect the well-being of restaurant workers, Green-Schuermans was clear: “Our staff are not trained or prepared to deal with angry, aggressive, or frustrated guests… We have hired bouncers to check vaccine records prior to entry to ensure the atmosphere within the restaurant continues to be welcoming.” The hiring of outside security is designed to ensure a proper path to de-escalate aggressive or angry guests. Without this outside help Green-Schuermans believes it would be difficult to guarantee staff safety “as the police have expressed, they will not be responding to vaccine passport confrontations.” When coupled with the fact that restaurants cannot ask staff about their vaccination status (these questions could be considered discriminatory) the need to ask guests this question becomes more concerning.
The aspect of staff safety is particularly concerning to Green-Schuermans as negative against her staff will impact their mental health. She explains that: “The restaurant sector is in a critical labour shortage, and all staff are stretched to their limits. The increased safety protocols and business uncertainty has put enormous pressure on our team.” The negative effect of these mandates has stretched beyond financial concerns. Green-Schuermans explains that the greatest impact felt has been the polarization amongst staff and the immediate detrimental effect it has had on company culture.