Manny’s Will Give Away Free Sandwiches This Week, But The Mask Struggle Continues

Manny’s, the legendary deli in Chicago, recently made an offer to its customers: if it could get through a month when people wore masks, it would give away free sandwiches.

It didn’t even make it through the lunch hour on any given day. But an anonymous benefactor has stepped up to make good on a free sandwich offer.

On Tuesday, Manny’s will give away 1,000 free sandwiches, first come, first serve, one per customer. To collect one, customers must still wear a mask into the shop, and keep it on except when they are eating.

Manny’s also plans to distribute free sandwiches to 450 workers at the United Center’s vaccine clinic.

The free sandwich promotion will go on until the sandwiches are gone, and if they aren’t all taken by day’s end, Manny’s plans to donate the money they would have cost to make to a non-profit organization.

Danny Raskin, fourth generation member of the family that owns Manny’s, says he and his staff have been frustrated by customers’ lack of response to his plea to wear masks.

He doesn’t believe customers are deliberately going mask free, but they forgot to put masks back on when they are walking through his dining room, or don’t bring them with them after parking their cars.

Masks are especially important because of the stress faced by restaurant employees. “There’s a lot of controversy that restaurant workers haven’t been able to get vaccinated yet,” he says.

While a number of places are opening up vaccines to bigger groups of people, there’s still been a lag in classifying restaurant staff among essential employees, like health care workers and even grocery store employees.

In Chicago, for instance, restaurant employees finally will be eligible to receive vaccines beginning Monday.

As they wait for their shots to take effect, those restaurant workers have been tasked with making sure customers comply with health and safety guidelines.

The inability to get vaccinated, coupled with having to enforce Covid protocols, are reasons why restaurants in every part of the country are having trouble finding enough employees.

Some don’t want to become mask enforcers; others simply don’t want to go back to the food service profession.

At the beginning of the pandemic, an estimated 8 million restaurant workers temporarily lost their jobs, due to state-wide shut downs, and limits on the number of guests that restaurants and bars could serve.

About 110,000 independent restaurants closed, according to the National Restaurant Association. And while a new round of $28.6 billion in federal assistance is now available, restaurants don’t just need money, they need people to work.

In numerous cities across the country, new restaurants are joining returning restaurants in vying for employees.

Anyone who is interested in a restaurant career might find that they have a choice of jobs. That makes the need to get restaurant employees vaccinated all the greater, and speed their return to healthier sales.

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