Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

McDonald's details what dining in will look like

The fast food giant recently distributed a 59-page 'Dine-In Reopening Playbook' to franchisees, outlining procedures for safely reopening dining rooms across the US

By David Yaffe-Bellany
Published: May 16, 2020

McDonald's details what dining in will look likePeople order food to-go from a McDonald’s in New York, April 24, 2020. The fast-food chain distributed a guide to franchise owners with instructions like putting “closed” signs on tables to promote social-distancing and cleaning bathrooms every half-hour. (Grabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times)

Clean the digital kiosks each time a customer orders. Place “closed” signs on certain tables to promote social-distancing. Scrub the bathrooms every half-hour.

Those were among the instructions in a 59-page guide that McDonald’s recently distributed to franchisees outlining procedures for safely reopening the fast-food chain’s dining rooms across the country.

The guide — titled “The Dine-In Reopening Playbook” — does not outline a strict timeline, giving franchisees some discretion to decide when to reopen, according to a copy reviewed by The New York Times.

Once a local government says that restaurants can admit dine-in guests, a McDonald’s official in that region will decide whether reopening can begin, it says. Then individual franchise owners will make a decision about whether to go through with reopening.

So far, fewer than 100 McDonald’s locations have opened dining rooms in the states where that is already allowed. A McDonald’s spokesman, Jesse Lewin, said the company and its franchisees had been discussing reopening plans “for the last several weeks.” The company worked with epidemiologists as well as state and local health officials to assemble the guidelines, he said.

In addition to the rules about kiosks and bathrooms, the guide calls for all “high-touch” areas to be disinfected every 30 minutes and recommends putting signage on the floor to prevent customers from brushing past one another as they move around.

The details of the guide were earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Unlike the small, independent restaurants that have been battered during the pandemic, McDonald’s was in a good position to weather the economic fallout. Its drive-thrus have stayed open, and they accounted for about two-thirds of the company’s revenue before the crisis.

But the company’s bottom line has still taken a hit. After reporting a decline in sales last month, the company’s chief executive, Chris Kempczinski, warned that “the exact trajectory of our recovery is highly uncertain.”

And workers and labor advocates have criticized the company for failing to provide sufficient protective equipment to employees working at the drive-thrus.

In the reopening guide, McDonald’s said it would require employees to have their temperatures taken before work, wear gloves and face masks, and wash their hands every hour.

“For dine-in orders, the bag will be placed on a clean sanitized tray and delivered to the customer while maintaining social-distance requirements,” the guide says. “Do not forget napkins and straws!”

Virtually every restaurant owner in the United States — from Michelin-star chefs to fast-food executives — has wrestled with how to make dining rooms safe in the coronavirus era. Some owners are planning to install plexiglass barriers between booths, while others are turning to paper menus and disposable cutlery.

McDonald’s is not the only fast-food chain moving closer to reopening. Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King and Popeyes, said this week that it would begin reopening dining rooms with a number of new safety precautions, including “beautiful tabletop signage” to indicate which tables are open.

The McDonald’s guide also includes a Q&A section on how to manage guests who refuse to comply with social-distancing guidelines.

“Always approach a situation calmly and treat everyone with respect,” the guide says. “Inform the guest: I apologize for any inconvenience, but to help keep everyone safe, we would like all our guests to maintain a safe distance of 6 feet from each other and our staff.”

©2019 New York Times News Service