McDonald’s, which has not set a timeline for reopening dining rooms across the U.S., revealed Wednesday measures the brand plans to take when those services resume at nearly 14,000 U.S. restaurants.
With several states and cities easing dine-in restrictions, McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger said McDonald’s Corp. is “moving thoughtfully and judiciously with guidance provided by local authorities.”
The company said “a limited number of restaurants are open for dine-in in certain communities where state and local restrictions have been lifted.”
The priority in the new normal is keeping people safe through physical distancing.
“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,” Erlinger said in a statement. “To date, we have implemented nearly 50 process changes in restaurants and increased training for restaurant crew.”
Since the pandemic forced restaurants to close dine-in services in mid-March, McDonald’s has been offering carryout, delivery and drive-thru services. A majority, or 99% of U.S. stores, have remained open for off-premise.
During this time, restaurants have expanded safety procedures by adding wellness checks, social distancing floor stickers and protective barriers at order points. Employees are also wearing masks and gloves.
In addition, when dining rooms reopen, Erlinger said consumers will notice the following changes: closing some seating and tables to accommodate social distancing; more frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces, including tables; making masks available for customers in cities where they are required; keeping Play Places closed and modifying dine-in beverage procedures to minimize contact.
McDonald’s said beverage bars will remain closed or sectioned off in restaurants to minimize contact.
“We are recommending that restaurants move to individual beverages distribution with fresh cups for refills,” the company told Nation's Restaurant News.
As states allow dining rooms to reopen, many have outlined their own guidelines for restaurants. On Tuesday, California released a comprehensive list of dine-in guidelines for restaurants, which includes closing sections of the dining room where customers may congregate, such as self-serve ice machines and soda dispensers.
McDonald’s said it also plans to modify table service, which the company launched a few years ago to enhance hospitality.
“Contactless table service will take place,” the company said. “Food will be delivered on sanitized trays in double folded bags, while maintaining social distancing.”
Some seating will also be designated unavailable to comply with social distancing guidelines and signs will indicate when a seating area is safe (or ready) for use, the company said, adding that all tables will be cleaned and sanitized after every use.
“McDonald’s, in partnership with owner operators will make reopening decisions that are right for the local communities and help ensure restaurant crew and customers feel safe and welcome,” Erlinger said. “We look forward to welcoming you back into our dining rooms, when the timing is right and with these extra precautions in place.”
Also on Wednesday, McDonald’s Corp. revealed new plans for assisting franchisees during the pandemic. The initiatives include: spending 4% of pre-COVID-19 systemwide sales on marketing to accelerate recovery and drive sales; targeted financial support to the hardest hit operators within the system; and support for operators with “unique” challenges such as those operating delivery-only restaurants.
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Updated: This story was edited to include more details from McDonald's on safety protocols and franchisee support.