In-N-Out Burger has become the latest quick-service chain to close its dining rooms, leaving hungry burger fans two options for ordering: takeout and drive thru.
The chain’s to-go model could be particularly rough on Double-Double fans who are sticking close to home as the old-fashioned burger brand has refrained from working with third-party delivery operators. About five years ago, the privately held Irvine, Calif.-based company sued DoorDash for delivering its burgers without its permission.
As the spread of the highly contagious novel coronavirus escalates, government authorities have suggested people limit group gatherings to 10 or fewer people and avoid visiting restaurants and bars. Some cities have imposed stricter guidelines, including mandating that restaurants shutdown dine-in services and revert to takeout and delivery.
An In-N-Out spokeswoman told Nation’s Restaurant News that the the chain began closing dine-in operations on Sunday. The company operates 352 stores in six states: Utah, California, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Arizona.
The chain completed the transition to carryout/drive-thru service on Tuesday.
“We are continuing to serve all customers via take-out and drive-thru orders only. We have closed our inside dining and patio seating areas,” the spokeswoman said.
In California, In-N-Out's home turf, residents will increasingly need to rely on delivery services. Late Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a "Stay at Home" order for residents. Essential services will remain open including grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants.
"Everyone in California is required to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job," according to the state order.
While rival fast food chains offer fricitionless ordering through apps and websites, In-N-Out will not be able to compete on that level during the coronavirus crisis as its restaurants don't offer digital ordering.
As for its employees, In-N-Out said it is beefing up paid sick time. The chain is known for offering above average wages and benefits for hourly workers and employees.
The company said it is replenishing "associate paid sick-time banks to ensure that every single In-N-Out Burger associate will have at least two weeks of paid sick time available to them should they not feel well and need to stay home from work."
Other QSR chains closing dining rooms across the U.S. include: McDonald’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Noodles & Company, Taco Bell, KFC, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Shake Shack, Panda Express, and Arby’s.
While losing dine-in revenue is challenging to restaurants, data suggests that QSR chains will fare better than other segments because their operations are designed for off-premise. The drive-thru can generate up to 75% of total sales at a quick-service restaurant.
Nationally quick-service restaurants saw an 11% uptick in traffic from the week of Feb. 19 to the week ending March 13, according to a recent report by location data company Foursquare.
For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.
Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven
Update: This story was updated to include information about California's Stay at Home order, issued late Thursday night.