McDonald’s and other US fast-food restaurants are starting to close indoor dining seats due to fears of COVID-19. The spread of the virus brought by the Delta variant is causing concerns among management and franchise operators. In some cases, stores are asked to limit operating hours to minimize staff’s risk of infection.
Closing Indoor Dining For Now
Last year, McDonald’s suspended indoor dining in order to help halt the spread of COVID-19. By July this year, the company managed to reopen around 70% of their restaurants and welcomed customers for indoor dining.
By the end of July, the company is approaching its target of 100% store reopenings by Labor Day. However, the spread of Delta might change plans and timetables after all.
Now, the company is considering removing indoor dining until the threat of the virus eases up. As of last week, the fast-food chain giant told its franchisees to close indoor dining.
It gave instructions on steps they should take to re-close their dining areas. This is according to internal company materials viewed by Reuters.
Safety For Restaurant Teams and Crew
During a Wednesday meeting last week, McDonald’s US President Joe Eringer said worker safety is a priority. “We have a much deeper sense of what actions make a difference for the safety of our restaurant teams and crew,” Erlinger said.
In a statement, McDonald’s said they’ll closely monitor the situation. “We’re monitoring the impact of the Delta variant closely and recently convened together with our franchisees to underscore existing safety protocols, reinforce our people-first approach and provide updates on the rise in cases in the country,” the company said.
The move is in step with McDonald’s leadership. Executives recommended franchisees should close indoor dining in counties where Covid cases exceed 250 per 100,000 people.
The reading should be based on a rolling three-week average. Franchise owners will determine their course of action, so the material did not specify how many locations have shut indoor seating or could soon do so.
However, owners are paying attention. One franchisee who operates multiple locations told Reuters it had to bar indoor seating at several restaurants.
Lower Than 2020 Closures
Still, the expected closures of indoor won’t mean total closures of restaurants. In addition, the number of outlets affected is less compared to the total outlets that totally shut down last year. When the pandemic first hit the US in the spring of 2020, many fast food outlets shut down completely.
In the months that followed the shutdown, outlets slowly reopened but kept indoor dining services closed. Only drive-thru, carry-out, and delivery operations continued.
However, these proved popular with customers that remained indoors at their home. As a result, delivery, takeout, and drive-thru sales helped keep fast-food restaurants busy. Still, franchisees said that sales were much better when indoor dining resumed.
Other Fast Food Brands Also Cutting Hours, Closing Indoor Dining
McDonald’s isn’t alone in reducing hours and cutting off indoor dining. PMTD Restaurants inc, owners of the KFC and Taco Bell brands, also took measures. The chain cut hours in a few of its nearly 40 KFC and Taco Bell restaurants in Alabama and Georgia.
The reason? Bill Byrd, PMTD president, said that many outlets lacked enough workers as several employees caught COVID-19. Taco Bell is hard hit with the early closures.
Many Taco Bell customers go to the outlets late at night. Closing at 8 pm instead means they lose out on 20% of their daily business, according to Byrd?
Watch the Reuters video reporting that McDonald’s, others reconsider US indoor dining:
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