Smita Jatia, managing director, Hardcastle Restaurants
Q. What have the past few months been like for McDonald’s, and what are your plans to reopen?
Once food delivery was declared essential early in the lockdown, we started opening hubs in different cities. We didn’t need to open all outlets—with no one on the streets, we were able to cover the entire city from a few restaurants, thereby keeping operating costs under control. In April, we had 98 restaurants open—about 37 percent of our total stores. In May, certain states eased rules for take-away, and we opened 191 restaurants. In June, some cities like Mumbai are still impacted, but in other states, dine-in is also opening. By the end of the month, we’re hoping 83 percent of restaurants will open, 50 percent
of which will be operating dine-in. Mall stores won’t be open yet, of course. But the good news for us is that we’ve always had a diversified portfolio of locations.
Q. What is your strategy for the next few months—will delivery continue to be the focus?
Not only delivery, drive through and takeaway are also doing very well for us. We are going to further leverage our digital strategy to create an omni-view of the customer; this means the same customer wants to order delivery in the office, or pick up a cup of coffee as take-away. We have introduced a new delivery feature called ‘on the go’, where you can have your order delivered to your car, without needing to enter the restaurant. We want to offer customers quality, trust and value for money.
A McDonald's outlet in Bengaluru is ready to reopen, complete with social distancing signage.
Q. For a fast-serve chain like yours, how will you keep up with the pace of sanitisation?
We started a work-from-home programme for employees during the lockdown, to teach them about new sanitisation norms. We have an extensive 42-point list our crew has been trained in. No bare hands touch any food or surface. We’ve made blocks through the restaurant for people to stand in, to maintain social distance. We’ll be doing temperature checks for customers as well as crew, and customers won’t be able to come in without masks. We have focussed on heightening our already high standards of hygiene.
Q. What does the future of QSRs look like?
A lot of customers will now use us for convenience, versus earlier, when they would come in to hang out. But we are confident that once offices and colleges open, people will have to find places with safe meals and value for money. The difference is that they may order or takeaway, versus come into the McDonald’s. But we won’t be leaving any sales on the table.
The customer in India is going through pain, with a lot of unpredictability, and a bit of fear psychosis too. They are going to be very conservative, and big-ticket items will be impacted. However, every person is going to want to get out after 70+ days of lockdown, and do feel good things. That’s human tendency. Eating out, and eating something different, is a big part of that journey.
You have to be very cautious in your approach as a business on how to move forward, take these couple of months as a bump on the road, and come back bolder and better. We’ve been talking to our counterparts in Hong Kong, Taiwan, even China, which are ahead of us. Business is coming back, people are going out again. QSRs, which provide value for money, are in a good place to be able to take that business.