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A "Thank You Meal" for first responders will be available at no charge via drive thru or carry out at participating McDonald’s restaurants nationwide Wednesday, April 22, through May 5.

McDonald’s Corp. and franchisees coordinate on reopening dining rooms, free meals for first responders

‘Safety will absolutely continue to be our first priority,” McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger on COVID-19 reopening protocols

McDonald’s restaurants are joining nationwide efforts within the industry to feed frontline workers by introducing the “Thank You Meal,” a free meal for healthcare workers, as well as first responders such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

The program, valid for one meal a day, starts Wednesday and runs through May 5. The meal, served in a Happy Meal box with a note of appreciation, is a joint effort by the Chicago-based chain and its franchisees to thank essential workers for keeping communities safe and healthy.

“Many are loyal customers. Now it’s our turn to thank them,” McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.

In addition, Erlinger and other McDonald’s leaders responded to media questions about measures the company is taking to keep employees safe as some jurisdictions prepare to reopen businesses including Georgia.

Vicki Chancellor, an Atlanta-based franchisee and chair of McDonald's Operator's National Advertising Committee, said when Georgia reopens every franchisee will review government requirements for restaurants.

Franchisees won’t reopen dining rooms without first having a “coordinated dialogue with our franchisor,” she said.

McDonald’s leaders said restaurants will follow local guidelines when reopening, which will likely include expanded safety measures beyond what the brand is doing now to keep employees and customers safe. The brand recently launched employee temperature checks and began installing safety shields at the drive thru and inside the cash register counter.

Employees at nearly 14,000 U.S. restaurants are now wearing masks. That amounts to sourcing and distributing roughly 900,000 non-surgical masks each day.

“Safety will absolutely continue to be our first priority,” Erlinger said.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Erlinger said he’s been inspired by the franchisees who have gone “above and beyond” to support local communities.

A majority of U.S. restaurants have remained open for drive-thru, carryout and delivery services.

Chancellor, owner-operator of seven McDonald's restaurants in Atlanta, said franchisees have been offering free Happy Meals to school-age children, donating food to local charities and delivering meals to hospital workers since the onset of the pandemic.

Though, this is “what we do every day,” Chancellor said she approached McDonald’s Corp. with the idea to launch a large-scale effort to help frontline workers.

“We have a responsibility to give back to the community who give back so much to us,” she said.

McDonald’s declined to disclose the cost associated with this program.

Starting Wednesday, frontline workers can obtain their free meal by showing their badge or uniform at the drive-thru or counter.

The breakfast options include choice of an Egg McMuffin, Chicken McGriddles or a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit. All options come with any size soft drink, tea or hot coffee and a hash brown. At lunch or dinner, the meal options are a choice of a Double Cheeseburger, 6-Piece Chicken McNuggets or a Filet-O-Fish. All options come with any size soft drink, tea or hot coffee and small fries.

McDonald’s is promoting the campaign with two ads, including one called “Grown Brave” which features frontline workers eating McDonald’s as children. The ad ends with a collage showing the children as adults working as medical professionals. It ends, “It’s our honor to serve you.”

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

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