Restaurant chains are devising long-term plans to keep dining rooms open whenever and wherever possible as the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of remission.
McDonald’s Corp., Starbucks Corp. and other chains are serving customers inside, in line with safety standards they say they’ve been training for for about nine months struggling with the virus. Executives say they see an immediate increase in sales as the dining rooms reopen.
However, with the Covid-19 case rising to new heights, these chains and other restaurant owners are having to close some dining rooms again, where officials have instructed them to do so. Illinois suspended statewide in-house dining on Wednesday, while a two-week home stay order led by El Paso, Texas, until November 11, closed dining rooms.
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McDonald’s and Starbucks have said they will not close large-scale dining rooms this time. Instead, they are the refined plans they say allow them to safely serve customers inside, even as the virus continues to spread across the United States.
McDonald’s says it has told US franchisors it can reopen dining rooms when coronavirus infections decrease locally for three consecutive weeks.
In October, Starbucks executives said the reopening of cafes with spacious tables and enhanced cleaning had boosted sales. “When we opened a coffee shop with a limited number of seats, the response was immediate,” said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.
Several chains, including Wingstop Inc., have decided to close dining rooms, reflecting a situation of struggling restaurants – and others – operating in uncertain and volatile circumstances. From manufacturers to malls, businesses are overhauling their operations to stay active during the global pandemic. As Covid-19 cases rise again, companies are reviewing their recently developed policies and procedures and changing them as needed.
Health experts say that while restaurants can take steps to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus inside, take-out services and outdoor dining are still safer.
“I do not recommend eating indoors,” said Thomas Russo, head of the University’s Infectious Diseases department at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Buffalo University.
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The lack of widespread link tracing in the United States has made it difficult to determine whether restaurants are facilitating the spread of coronavirus, but federal and state studies indicate some connection. A September survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who tested positive for Covid-19 were twice as likely to have dinner at a restaurant within two weeks. for people who test negative for the virus.
Scientists say, the virus thrives in enclosed spaces and eating in restaurants puts diners in close contact with others for long periods of time while they are talking and not wearing a mask. The well-spaced ventilation, air purifier and tables can help eliminate the risks of eating indoors as cases increase, says Dr. Russo of the University of Buffalo.
Common food chains include Cheesecake Factory Inc., Texas Roadhouse Inc. and BJ’s Investors Inc. installed glass partitions to maximize the dining space away from society. The median strips are longer lasting than the glass divider, and cost millions of dollars for dozens of restaurants. The California-based BJ restaurants told investors last month that the zoning allows them to add dozens more tables to service in one location while complying with social regulations.
The CEO of Bloomin ‘Brands Inc. David Deno said Outback Steakhouse owner is investing in equipment and training to protect customers. “I don’t mean to clear things up, but they like to go back to our business and like to eat out,” Deno said in an interview.
Executives say keeping dining rooms open is more important for their business as temperatures drop across much of the United States, leaving outdoor spaces that help less summer sales. tenants over.
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According to labor scheduling software company Homebase, the number of restaurants and bars opening is decreasing in states with declining and rising temperatures, including Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. Data from online booking platform OpenTable shows that dining bookings have increased or decreased in many states over the past month.
Many restaurants are struggling to stay afloat amid regulations that require them to limit the number of customers eating indoors or to shut down indoor dining altogether. The National Restaurant Association expects that at least 100,000 restaurants will close this year, double the usual annual rate. The trade association wants officials to take into account the effectiveness of spaced tables, air purification systems and other safety measures before banning indoor eating and drinking.
McDonald’s has kept most of its dining rooms closed this year as Burger King and others continue to add in-house service again. The company says about 2,000 of McDonald’s 14,000 restaurants in the US are serving customers in dining rooms.
McDonald’s said it is not expecting a reopening with the rise of Covid-19 cases. “We are in no hurry to reopen the dining rooms just to make a few more dollars,” Bill Garrett, McDonald’s US senior vice president of operations, said in an interview.
But while McDonald’s sales in the US have rebounded, mostly driven, pickup and delivery, dining rooms remain an important source of revenue. McDonald’s executives put a great emphasis on improving the chain’s in-house dining service before the pandemic through amenities such as digital kiosks and table service. Many US franchises have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on upgrades, and the company also finances a portion of the cost.
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McDonald’s executives told US franchisees in late September that they could continue reopening dining rooms if cases were reduced in their jurisdiction, based on data. State and county and local regulations permit face-to-face dining. The company said it is looking at feedback from consumers and employees about the prospects of its dining service. Playgrounds will remain closed.
Whether or not they decide to reopen is up to the franchisees, and many McDonald’s franchisees say they are generating high revenue without dining room service.
Tracy Johnstone, owner of seven McDonald’s restaurants in Florida that remained closed to customers during the majority of the pandemic, said she was used to serving only take-away customers. “It’s just part of responsible business,” she said.