McDonald’s Corp. has canceled its in-person worldwide convention over coronavirus fears as it works to develop contingency plans in the U.S. and around the world as the contagion continues to spread.
The company has also told franchisees to increase the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing high-touch areas in their restaurants to prevent the virus’s spread.
In a message to employees Friday, CEO Chris Kempczinski said he made the decision to cancel the convention, scheduled to be held in Orlando, Fla., next month. The convention will now be held virtually, in a manner similar to the way Starbucks Corp. said it plans to hold its own annual meeting this year.
“Last week, I asked for insights from managing directors and franchisee leadership regarding [the] Worldwide Convention,” Kempczinski said. “Based on their feedback, extensive global travel restrictions, input from the World Health Organization and other local and global health ministries, and our assessment of the situation, I’ve made the difficult but I think right decision to cancel our in-person Worldwide Convention in Orlando in favor of a Digital Worldwide Convention.”
The company said Friday that it is reminding its restaurants around the world to enhance its everyday hygiene practices. The company said that hand-wash sinks are to be stocked with soap, paper towels or functioning hand driers and warm water, and not to be used for anything else.
McDonald’s also told franchisees to sanitize “high-touchpoint surfaces,” such as door push plates and handles, kiosks, touchscreens, counters, table tents, tabletops and restroom surfaces. The company also said operators should consider providing alcohol-based sanitizer dispensers in convenient locations for customers in the lobby and behind the front counter.
The company said operators should encourage frequent hand-washing and noted that the hand sanitizers cannot replace regular washing as required by the company’s own procedures or by public health departments.
In January, McDonald’s established a global cross-functional working group that meets daily to evaluate the coronavirus’s impact on its business and actions each market needs to take. In the U.S., it has set up a crisis management team to develop contingency plans for its nearly 14,000 domestic restaurants.
McDonald’s said its markets are implementing supplemental procedures as necessary. The company has also set up a digital resource center to assist operators and markets with coronavirus preparation and has a “global wellness email box” to answer specific questions.
McDonald’s and many other chains have started taking more aggressive steps to prevent the coronavirus’s spread. Yum Brands has restricted travel by its executives, for instance, and Starbucks has taken aggressive steps in China, where the virus first appeared and has been confirmed in more than 80,000 people.
Worldwide, more than 100,000 people have been confirmed to have the coronavirus, including 250 in the U.S.