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McDonald’s is putting dine-in expansion on hold

The company said it will not reopen any dining rooms for another three weeks amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases.
Photograph courtesy of McDonald's Corp.

McDonald’s will not reopen any more of its U.S. dining rooms for at least three weeks amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases throughout the country.

In a letter to the system on Thursday, McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger and Mark Salebra, chair of the National Franchise Leadership Alliance, said the company would pause reopening plans “to protect our restaurant teams and customers.” The pause would last for 21 days, they said.

“Our resiliency will be tested again,” they said. “COVID-19 cases are on the rise—with a 65% increase in infections over the last two weeks. In the last seven days, 32 states saw increasing cases and this number appears to be growing.”

The letter makes McDonald’s the first major restaurant chain to deliberately halt plans to reopen dining rooms as a result of the resurgence of the virus, though many small chains and independents have taken this step.

To be sure, many fast-food chains have yet to reopen dining rooms at all, as drive-thrus and takeout services have more than made up for business lost during the past two months. Black Box Intelligence in a report earlier this week said that limited-service chains lagged far behind full-service chains in reopening in-restaurant dining.

Still, 2,200 McDonald’s locations had reopened dining rooms, or about 15% of the company’s nearly 14,000 restaurants. And more quick-service restaurants overall were gradually reopening dining rooms as states allowed.

In their letter, Erlinger and Salebra said that restaurants that already reopened dining rooms “should carefully review any new guidance from state and local officials that may require rolling back to a drive-thru/delivery/takeout model.”

The company is giving operators the option to close open dining rooms even if restrictions do not require it, though the letter says they should speak with their operations officer and franchise business partner.

McDonald’s also urged operators to be sure to supply employees with enough personal protection equipment as consumer fears of the virus increase again. The company said operators should require proper mask use by crew members, as well as customers “where applicable.”

Operators should also continue to check workers’ temperature, sanitize work areas and high-touch surfaces, focus on contactless operations and enforce social distancing among workers and customers.

“This surge shows nobody is exempt from the virus, even places that previously had very few cases,” Erlinger and Salebra said. “Moving forward, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust as needed to protect the safety of our employees and customers.”

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