McDonald’s and Taco Bell restaurants are trimming menus, including all-day breakfast at the world’s largest burger chain, as the coronavirus pandemic triggers a demand for dinner meals.
Most quick-service chains are operating with a to-go business model as jurisdictions across the U.S. have ordered restaurants to close dining rooms to maintain social distancing. As residents shelter in place, restaurant traffic has shifted to dinner as the most popular daypart, according to market research firm Datassential, which has been tracking coronavirus-related traffic and menu patterns.
Chains are noticing and adjusting menus to meet the needs of consumers, while easing kitchen complexities for employees.
“We know people depend on their local McDonald’s, and we are committed to continue doing our part to help our customers get through this pandemic,” Bill Garrett, senior vice president of operations at McDonald’s USA, said in a statement. “To simplify operations in our kitchens and for our crew, and ensure the best possible experience for our customers, we are working with our franchisees and local restaurants to focus on serving our most popular choices and will begin temporarily removing some items from the menu over the next few weeks.”
While Garrett didn’t give specifics on what items are being trimmed, Joe Erlinger, president of U.S. operations, confirmed in a tweet that all-day breakfast would be put on hold. The response came after a well-known but anonymous McDonald’s operator tweeted that restaurants, in waves, would be rolling out a limited menu that included a temporary halt of "ADB," or all-day breakfast.
Erlinger responded like this:
Garrett said the chain, which has temporarily closed restaurants in the United Kingdom, will “regularly evaluate the situation and look to move back to our regular menu as soon as possible.”
Last week, Taco Bell, a division of Yum Brands, said some stores would also stop serving breakfast as of March 18. At those stores, for the time being, restaurants will open at 10 a.m. to serve the balance of the menu, the Irvine, Calif.-based chain said.
The company said all restaurants that are reducing hours of operations will be updating those changes at tacobell.com/locations.
The move to reduce breakfast items comes as research shows a “dramatic shift away from QSR breakfast,” according traffic data by market research firm Sense360.
“Within the breakfast daypart, we saw a move away from the commuter breakfast occasion. This is as a result of fewer people on the road each morning commuting from home to work,” Sense360 said in its latest report, which is based on foot traffic and survey data from millions of consumers.
Datassential's Coronavirus Traffic Brief shows a similar pattern with dinner overtaking lunch as the most popular daypart.
“Restaurants should consider optimizing their menu for dinner traffic, including a focus on family meals or packages that provide the consumer additional meals for tomorrow,” Datassential wrote.
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