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McDonald's addresses sustainability efforts amid COVID-19.

McDonald's addresses limited menu, sustainability efforts amid coronavirus

The chain responds to franchisees looking to maintain a trimmed menu; sustainability chief also talks about making the supply chain stronger despite coronavirus challenges

McDonald’s Corp. made a few announcements this week, including responding to franchisee demands about keeping its limited menu when stores reopen and how it plans to maintain its sustainability practices when single-use plastics are on the rise during the COVID-19 era.

Here’s a look at what’s happening:

Limited menu: Keep or go back to normal?

The National Owners Association, a McDonald’s franchisee advocacy group formed in late 2018, expressed their support for serving a limited menu as stores reopen. McDonald’s put all-day breakfast on hold as part of a plan to trim the menu during the pandemic. NOA says the limited menu has made service times faster. 

"The limited menu and ease of operations are allowing our teams to focus and provide blazing fast service," the organization told members in a letter obtained by NRN. "We are convinced. Keeping our menu’s simplified is your NOA’s number one priority. Our second priority is a singular focus on our drive thrus."

In a statement sent to Nation’s Restaurant News, McDonald’s USA said the brand is always listening to customers and “evolving our menu to meet their needs.”

“Our temporary limited menu has helped us provide the best possible customer experience while simplifying operations in our kitchens and for our crew during the pandemic,” the company said. “We are partnering closely with our franchisees to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on restaurant operations and evaluate the best path forward for our national menu.” 

During the chain’s latest earnings call, CEO Chris Kempczinski said sticking with a limited menu would be a market by market decision.

“Maybe we want to go back in more of a staged way and add some items but not all items,” he said.

Sustainability in the era of COVID-19

On Friday, McDonald’s Corp. released a statement underscoring its continued effort to achieve a sustainable and resilient food system even amid the challenges of COVID-19.

“In spite of COVID-related pressures, McDonald’s remains committed to eliminating deforestation from our global supply chain by 2030,” Francesca DeBiase, executive vice president and chief supply chain and sustainability officer, said in a June 5 letter. 

Among the biggest issues: single use plastics.

“The current crisis has highlighted the importance of food packaging and also personal safety equipment, such as gloves and masks, which has been crucial to ensure the safety of our front-line restaurant employees,” DeBiase said. “We are mindful of short-term challenges including additional waste caused by disposable safety wear, some increase in plastic use and shortages of fiber for packaging.”

DeBiase said the company is tackling head-on the challenges of balancing “hygiene and safety” with long-term sustainability. To meet the challenge, she said the company is accelerating its circular economy initiative which keeps plastic waste out of nature.  

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McDonald's is accelerating its circular economy initiative which keeps plastic waste out of nature, a movement that is crucial as single-use plastics are on the rise due to COVID-19.

Plastic vs. fiber-based

McDonald’s said most of its packaging is fiber-based, with around 22% remaining in plastic. 

“We recognize that when packaging isn’t recovered correctly, it creates pollution. Around the world, we’re testing new and innovative ways to learn how we can further reduce packaging, switch to more sustainable materials and help our customers to reuse and recycle,”  DeBiase said.

McDonald’s will continue to work with partners to test new products by using its restaurants as mini innovation hubs. Such partnerships include the NextGen Consortium, which addresses single-use food packaging and plastic waste globally. 

For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.

Contact Nancy Luna at nancy.[email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

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