I’d like to offer you some sage advice about the state of the world.

I’d like to — but I can’t. The past 18 months have been rife with fear, division, fatigue, shifting norms, changing rules, hard-fought victories, confounding defeats, and the overall sense that just as we figured one thing out another thing would happen to pull the rug out from under everyone. Such is life amid a pandemic, social upheaval and political divisions.

In our latest round of reader research, we asked readers to look ahead to winter 2021 and forecast their biggest business concerns. Topping the list with 38.66% of respondents were concerns about ongoing supply chain issues and increased construction costs. Second, at 31.23%, was resurging COVID-19 cases causing more forced closures or other new regulations. Finally, 28.25% noted they expect labor and staffing issues to remain an ongoing concern.

Obviously, all the respondents have big concerns — and good reason to be concerned. There are big challenges ahead. From supply chains and rising construction costs, yes, but also the stress of vaccine mandates and the burden on private businesses — and their frontline workers — to enforce them. It’s one thing to tell everyone to show their vaccine card to get a table at a restaurant in a given city. It’s another thing to ask a young hostess at her first job to assert herself to a customer many years her senior who is screaming in her face about a mandate they disagree with. These kinds of issues will crop up all over as we see various cities across the country try to walk the tightrope
between entertaining guests and enforcing local regulations.

As someone who saw the vaccines as a way out of this incredible pandemic mess, it’s very hard for me to understand that others didn’t see it that way, don’t today and likely never will. And we’ve got to find a way to coexist peacefully despite many school board meetings and town halls devolving into screaming matches even as infection rates go back up and some areas have worse outbreaks than ever before.

I was ready to head to Orlando for The NAFEM Show in August, but it was canceled about a month before it was set to go on, for a variety of reasons. Other shows, like HD Expo in Las Vegas, forged ahead. And that’s the kind of calls we’re all going to have to continue to make for now. Each person and business has to use their own barometer to determine the risks worth taking as the pandemic stretches deep into its second year.

rd+d will be here to help readers understand what their peers are doing and see how established and emerging chains are taking on these new challenges. At the very least, we have all the knowledge we’ve gained in the past year and a half to inform the trip forward. Here’s hoping the fall cools off this overheated summer.