Commentary

McDonald's Issues Strict Guidelines For Reopening Eating Areas

McDonald’s has issued a 59-page booklet detailing all the changes its more than 14,000 restaurants in the U.S. must make before reopening for sit-down service in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The restaurant said it will close some seating and tables to encourage social distancing, and require employees to wear masks and gloves. When eating inside one of McDonald's restaurants, employees will deliver food to a customer's table in a double-folded bag,” Brett Molina writes  for USA Today.

“McDonald’s said it will also clean restaurants more frequently. Play Places will remain closed and restaurants will modify ‘dine-in beverage procedures’ to limit contact. Restaurants will also include signs to advise customers on proper social distancing,” Molina continues.

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The regulations include “commitments to clean bathrooms every half-hour and digital kiosks after each order,” Heather Haddon writes for The Wall Street Journal.

“The guide also shows how complex -- and expensive -- reopening dining areas will be and raises questions about the cost structure of that business for franchisees while concerns about the pandemic remain,” she continues.

“New purchasing recommendations, including foot-pulls to allow customers to open bathroom doors without using their hands, could lead to new expenses and logistical considerations for McDonald’s hundreds of U.S. restaurant owners, franchisees said. The guide includes a list of products such as a $310 automatic towel dispenser and a $718 touchless sink,” Haddon adds.

“The guide -- titled ‘The Dine-In Reopening Playbook’ -- does not outline a strict timeline, giving franchisees some discretion to decide when to reopen,” David Yaffe-Bellany writes  for The New York Times.

“Once a local government says that restaurants can admit dine-in guests, a McDonald’s official in that region will decide whether reopening can begin, it says. Then individual franchise owners will make a decision about whether to go through with reopening,” he adds. “So far, fewer than 100 McDonald’s locations have opened dining rooms in the states where that is already allowed.”

“The guidance also restricts the self-serve beverage bars typical of the fast food chain,” reports  J. Edward Moreno for The Hill

“‘Brand perception is another concern,’ the guide notes, ‘and how this would/could play out in the minds of the customers given heightened perceptions around hygiene and safety as they see other customers not take precautions.’”

Moreno notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday posted updated reopening guidelines for schools, workplaces and social venues such as restaurants. “The CDC restaurant guidance calls for spacing out tables and stools, limiting occupancy and encouraging options like drive-thru or curbside pickup,” he writes.

“Since the pandemic began, my team and I have been meeting three times a day to evaluate and adjust our plans while also adopting best practices from our franchisees and global markets,” McDonald’s USA president Joe Erlinger reveals in a letter released Wednesday that points out that 99% of its restaurants have remained open “to serve first responders, healthcare workers and communities throughout this crisis.”

“To date, we have implemented nearly 50 process changes in restaurants and increased training for restaurant crew. Now, as cities and states begin to ease restrictions, we are moving thoughtfully and judiciously with guidance provided by local authorities,” he writes.

Mickey D’s isn’t the only familiar institution that won’t be quite the same when social life begins to get back to normal. 

“The amusements business is built on crowds and communal experiences.… Now, owners of national and regional parks are trying to rewrite the theme park playbook so they can reopen in the midst of COVID-19,” writes  Sarah Whitten for CNBC.

To begin, expect occupancy caps, not only for the parks themselves, but also on rides. Masks. Temperature readings. Social distancing. Cashless pay options.

“In the middle term, tech will start to replace all those things that people were doing,” Bill Coan, president and CEO of ITEC Entertainment, tells Whitten. 

“Long term, parks will begin to design rides a bit differently, Coan said. Queuing and riding strategies that focused on packing people into close quarters will change. However, parks will have to get creative on how to maintain throughput and the guest experience,” Whitten adds.

Indeed, creatively maintaining throughput will be a challenge for many.

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