McDonald’s shuts dining areas at company-owned locations and encourages franchises to follow suit
McDonald’s has become the latest—and by far the largest—restaurant operator to announce it is shutting down its U.S. dining rooms due to coronavirus while leaving drive-thrus, take-out and delivery open for business.
The move goes into effect at the close of business on March 16. The announcement comes as local governments across the country have begun to order restaurants to shut their dining rooms and shift to delivery and take-out only options in an effort to get people to keep their distance from one another as part of the effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The McDonald’s decision to close its dining rooms only directly impacts those restaurants the company runs, which account for a small fraction of the nearly 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants across the country. “Franchisees are strongly encouraged to adopt similar operations procedures,” the world’s largest restaurant company said in a statement.
McDonald’s said the plans are expected to be adopted by the majority of franchisees.
“Franchisee leadership completely supports the decision to adhere to social distancing guidelines and ensure that large groups of customers are not gathered together inside our restaurants,” Mark Salebra, National Franchisee Leadership Alliance Chair, said in a statement released by McDonald’s.
When customers visit a McDonald’s, they will no longer be able to dine in and also cannot use self-serve beverage bars or kiosks, McDonald’s said in a statement. Its PlayPlaces are also closing as of March 16.
McDonald’s said it expects most of the staff who were scheduled to work will be redeployed to handle the drive-thru, carryout and delivery orders. McDonald’s gets about 70 percent of its U.S. business in the drive-thru lanes. Delivery is handled by third-party providers including Uber Eats, Grubhub and Postmates.
The Chicago-based company had already encouraged corporate employees to work from home and limited business travel to “essential only,” which were some of the details outlined by CEO Chris Kempczinksi in a March 15 video posted on YouTube.
“One day we will be on the other side of this,” he said in the video. “Life will normalize again. Communities will be back to normal. And that’s where we need to keep our focus.”
Other restaurants have made similar moves. For example, on Monday, Inspire Brands said it has closed the dining locations at its company-owned Arby’s, Jimmy John’s and Sonic restaurants, while keeping drive-thru, take out, and curbside pick-up available where local regulations allow. Inspire's Buffalo Wild Wings and Rusty Taco chains will also close their dining rooms as of March 17, and will offer carryout and delivery where available, a spokesman said.
McDonald’s had previously said it was stepping up the frequency of cleaning in “high-touch areas” including ordering kiosks, pick-up counters and restrooms, and “supporting employees in staying home from work if they are sick so they can rest and recover.” McDonald’s also altered plans for its biennial worldwide convention, which was set to be held in April in Orlando, to an online event.
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CLARIFICATION: Due to an error introduced by an editor, a prior version of this story carried a headline stating that McDonald's was closing its company-owned locations, rather than specifying the closure of dining rooms at its company-owned locations. Ad Age regrets the error.