Ariane Lapègue, Charles Wells country manager France, lays out how the company’s 17 French pubs are gearing up for the legal requirement.
She said: “In France, the Covid passport is going to be launched early August. A Covid passport means in terms of full vaccination or a PCR test from less than 72 hours previously.
“From August, to go into a pub or a restaurant you need to show your Covid passport on your phone and the bar or restaurant will need to scan it.”
Lapègue went on to outline exactly how this will impact businesses in the hospitality sector with regards to staffing.
She added: “It is a big thing in France, for the bars and restaurants to do that especially for bars because you will need someone on the entrance.
“The plan is to check all the Covid passports before anyone is sitting in the pub then we know when someone is ordering a pint, we will have checked it before.
“We will need to have, all the time, at least two people [in venues]. We will need to have more staff otherwise the staff won't be able to check.”
However, it is unclear at this stage, the penalties that will be enforced if firms do not impose Covid passports.
“We don't know yet what we will risk if we don't do it. If people don't have the Covid passport, they can get €1,000 fine, then it will increase to €40,000 and even jail, we could go to jail,” she said.
“That's why the syndicates from bars and restaurants are not happy because they say 'we are not policemen'.
“[But], we won't need to check ID so if someone has a fake Covid passport, it won't be our responsibility. That was confirmed by the Prime Minister (on Tuesday 21 July). They [the French Government] say they will give us one week to put everything in place and then the control will start.”
But the compulsory Covid-status certification scheme won’t just be for customers of hospitality businesses, Lapègue stated.
She said: “From the end of August, our staff will need to have a Covid passport as well. The vaccination is not mandatory but if they are not vaccinated they will need to do a PCR test every two days, if they want to work, which is not terrible in reality.
“They are still discussing about what the employer will be able to do if an employee doesn't want to be vaccinated but it seems that the contract will be suspended until they are vaccinated so [there will be] no pay during this time.
“[Employees] can be suspended for up to two months and if after that, the employee is still not vaccinated, employers can start the disciplinary process.
“There are two reasons you can't be vaccinated but it is really health reasons otherwise you need to be vaccinated or you accept to do a PCR test every two days. That's tough.”
Fortunately, recruitment in France is not suffering the same crisis as here in the UK, with staffing not being a huge issue.
Lapègue added: “It is a little bit better than the UK from what I've heard. We manage to recruit people.
“Sometimes we struggle but not more than a normal period. I don't think Covid has impacted the recruitment but I don't know if it is going to be the same when the Covid passport is in place.”
However, in France, the vaccine passport is compulsory across more sectors than hospitality, including many leisure venues.
She said: “From 21 July, it [vaccine passport] was mandatory in the cinemas, gyms, theatres, all the places where there are more than 50 people, it will be mandatory.
Lapègue stated the country had seen a slump in the number of younger people getting jabbed but the vaccine passport plan had resulted in many making appointments for the vaccination.
She said: “Our president announced last Monday (19 July) [about Covid passports] and I've seen a huge amount of people have booked their vaccination, people now want to be vaccinated because the vaccination was decreasing a little bit in June. Now they have boosted that.”
In terms of customer reaction, it has been a mixed bag, the Wells & Co boss highlighted, with some vowing not to visit the pub again.
She said: “Customers are a bit frustrated. I visited some pubs and one customer said he wouldn't be going anymore because of that but if he does that, he won't be able to go anywhere.
“What we are seeing is some bars and restaurants won't respect the Covid passports. We saw last year that keeping social distancing, table service, some pubs didn't follow those rules so we know it will be the same for the Covid passports, that some bars will decide to not do it, that's a risk.
“That's not the lines Wells & Co has decided to follow and I agree with that.”
Looking to when the vaccine passport is made compulsory, Lapègue predicted footfall in venues will drop off.
“I am sure we will lose some customers because the main frustration from the customer is the deadline is very short,” she said.
“It was announced last Monday (19 July) and it's [coming into force] from 1 August. Even if the time between the two shots is shorter than in the UK, it's three weeks in France but it was difficult to get an appointment because everyone last week was trying to get one so the main frustration is that it's so early.
“They should have put it for early September. I'm sure some people will decide to not go out but they won't be able to go anywhere.”
However, she was unsure as to how much of an impact it will have on business, due to the fact Covid-status certification is in place across leisure venues.
Lapègue said: “I have no idea how much [trade will drop] but for sure, it will decrease because some people won't have it [the vaccine].
“It is August and we know that is one of our lowest months because of the holidays so it's quite a good thing it starts then but what would worry us is more if it continues in September and October.
“I don't know, I can't really forecast how many sales it will cost us. At least at the beginning because some people won't have the time to get the shot and after one shot you have to wait for one week to get the Covid passport.”