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Chipotle Mexican Grill joins fray of chains shifting to off-premise only operations to aid in social distancing.

Chipotle Mexican Grill joins fray of chains closing dine-in operations to limit spread of coronavirus

Delivery and carryout remain open to customers of its 2,600 stores

Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Brian Niccol announced Tuesday that the chain’s 2,600 restaurants will temporality halt dine-in service, joining dozens of restaurant chains around the country trying to limit the spread of novel coronavirus.

“We are working diligently to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to keep our guests and our employees safe during this time of extreme uncertainty,” Niccol wrote in a message sent to customers via email.

The decision comes 24 hours after the chain said it would only be closing dining rooms in “jurisdictions that have restrictions for in-restaurant dining.”

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That statement came before President Trump released strict guidelines for slowing the spread of coronavirus. While the federal government did not recommend shutting down restaurants, Trump and health authorities suggested people limit group gatherings to 10 or fewer people and avoid visiting restaurants and bars.

While such moves are crippling to the industry and its employees, hundreds of chains and mom and pop restaurants have moved swiftly to comply with restrictions that promote social distancing. Restaurants are either closing temporarily or moving to off-premise services.

Other chains moving to to-go operations include McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Panda Express, Arby’s, Taco Bell, Sonic, Noodles & Co. and Shake Shack.

Like Starbucks and McDonald’s, Chipotle said customers can still walk into a store and order food for takeout.

Anticipating a surge in delivery orders, the Newport Beach, Calif.-based fast-casual chain announced last week a free delivery program “to make life easier for guests.”  The company is waiving delivery fees through the end of March on orders made through the company’s digital services.

Other chains offering free delivery include Potbelly. The sandwich brand said it would waive delivery fees through March 29 on orders made through its branded channels, as well as Grubhub and DoorDash.

Third-party delivery operator Postmates said it is reducing delivery fees, even during peak lunch hours to make on-demand “more accessible during this challenging time,” the company said.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

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