Chick-fil-A to suspend dine-in service

The company said it is temporarily closing dining room seating over coronavirus fears, joining Starbucks in going takeout-only.
Photograph courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A said late Sunday that it would close the seating in its dining rooms, joining Starbucks in shifting away from table service in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Atlanta-based chicken sandwich chain said in a notice on its website that it would temporarily close its dining room seating.

The company said some of its restaurants “may only offer service through drive-thrus, while others may be able to offer takeout, delivery or mobile-order options.”

“Thanks for your patience,” the company said. “We know these are challenging times, but we’ll continue to do our best to serve you.”

Starbucks on Sunday said it would temporarily close some of its coffee shops and close seating inside company-owned U.S. and Canada locations. Chick-fil-A is the largest, food-centric fast-food chain to take this step.

The fast-casual operator Cava said on Monday that it would eliminate dine-in service, joining the salad chain Just Salad, which plans to shift to all-digital service beginning after close today.

Shake Shack also said that it would go to a takeout-only model.

Even chains that are primarily dine-in companies have taken this step. Raleigh, N.C.-based Golden Corral said it would suspend in-restaurant dining in its Illinois restaurants, using only the company’s “Golden Corral Meals to Go” service for curbside service and delivery. “We will continue to do what we can to both prevent the spread of this disease and serve our guests good, healthy meals at a reasonable cost for most families,” CEO Lance Trenary said.

Others are expected to do the same this week as a growing number of local governments begin forbidding dine-in service.

Governments are taking that step as part of increasingly drastic measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, including closing schools and restricting gatherings to as few as 25 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday said it recommended against gatherings with 50 or more people.

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest restaurant chain in the U.S., with just under 2,400 locations. The chain said just on Friday that it would close its playgrounds and serve meals in takeout packaging and would no longer offer drive-thru customers a printed menu.  

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