UPDATE: March 20, 2020
Yum! Brands fast food outlet KFC closed its dining rooms on March 19, switching to a carryout, drive-thru, and online order model, with free delivery through April 26.
UPDATE: March 18, 2020
As of March 17, chicken spot Wingstop will also close its dining rooms and transition to carry-out and delivery orders.
Texas fast food staple Whataburger will close its dining room, but keep its drive-thrus open. They’re also adding curbside pickup options for online and app orders from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM beginning March 19.
Inspire Brands, the parent company of Arby’s, Jimmy John’s, Sonic, Buffalo Wild Wings and Rusty Taco announced that it has suspended dining in at all of its restaurants. Drive-thru, take out and curbside pickup options are still available “subject to local regulations.”
ORIGINAL PUBLISH DATE: March 17, 2020
Despite what a bunch of idiots on a beach in Florida would suggest, now is the time to be hunkering down in the hopes of minimizing the impact of the Coronavirus to the extent possible. The responses to the pandemic have varied state by state, which has created confusion and sometimes left restaurant chains to figure out for themselves whether to stay open or shut down. With that in mind, here’s a running list of how various restaurant chains have responded to Coronavirus.
McDonald’s is closing the dining rooms of all company-owned locations, which only applies to only about 5 percent of total U.S. locations according to the Wall Street Journal. Restaurants owned by franchisees have been encouraged to do the same, but it’s ultimately at their discretion or that of state authorities. Drive-thrus and delivery services will remain open, as well as to-go orders in some places.
Wendy’s has also turned its company-owned stores into to-go and drive-thru only locations, encouraging franchisees to follow suit. Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, and Starbucks are among the chains who have decided to close down dining areas and switch entirely to to-go, delivery, and drive-thru orders. Taco Bell has taken things a step further in jurisdictions where restaurants aren’t already closed. Going forward, all of Taco Bell’s U.S. restaurants will be delivery and drive-thru only.
Though things may change, some establishments are soldiering on in the status and cities where they’re allowed to. For example, Burger King will remain open, but expects to ramp up its delivery offerings through partners like Postmates, DoorDash, and others. A company announcement touts its “best-in-class cleaning procedures,” and added that it’s increasing the frequency of these cleanings, “which now occur multiple times every hour at each of our restaurants.”
Other companies have followed suit in remaining open, but with enhanced cleaning procedures. They include Dunkin’, Subway, Sonic (who is expanding paid sick leave), Popeyes, and KFC (who is offering free delivery through the end of April).
This is obviously a developing situation, and any decisions to stay open may be rendered irrelevant as more and more states decide to shut down dining for all but delivery and takeout. While it’s obviously disappointing, the health and safety of employees (many of whom could lose their jobs in the absence of significant financial assistance or changes to company paid sick leave policies) is of primary concern at a time like this.
At the end of the day, the big chains will probably be just fine when this is all over. The fate of local restaurants is far more perilous. If you’re thinking of delivery, pick a local restaurant. Also, see if you can purchase a gift card to use at your favorite neighborhood haunt once life gets back to normal. They’re going to be taking a serious hit in the weeks and months ahead, and I’m sure they’d appreciate all they help they can get.