© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen at McDonald’s Restaurant in Queens, New York, USA, on March 17, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some fast-food restaurants in the U.S. are closing covered seating areas or limiting hours of operation due to the extension of the COVID-19 Delta variant, according to franchisees.
McDonald’s Corp (NYSE 🙂 had temporarily closed the indoor dining hall in almost every location in the U.S. by early 2020, but reopened 70% last month. The global burger chain said on July 28 that it was on track to open almost 100% on Labor Day, except for any resurgence of COVID-19.
But last week, McDonald’s instructed its franchisees on the steps they should take to close dining halls in areas where the Delta variant is spreading rapidly, according to the company’s internal materials seen by Reuters.
“We have a much deeper idea of what actions make a difference to the safety of our equipment and restaurant equipment,” U.S. McDonald’s President Joe Erlinger said during a meeting Wednesday, according to the material.
At Wednesday’s conference call, McDonald’s executives recommended that franchisees consider closing indoor seats in counties where COVID cases exceed 250 per 100,000 people in an average of three weeks.
The materials did not specify how many locations have closed the interior seats or could soon do so.
A McDonald’s franchisee operating several locations told Reuters he had to ban indoor seating at several restaurants.
But the projected closures are lower than the number that closed in the spring of 2020, when the pandemic first hit the United States.
“We are closely monitoring the impact of the Delta variant and recently convened together with our franchisees to highlight existing security protocols, strengthen the first approach of our people and provide updates on the increase in cases in the country,” he said. say McDonald’s Corp in a statement on Friday.
U.S. top health officials said Friday that U.S. coronavirus cases continue to rise amid the rapidly spreading Delta variant. Vaccination rates were also higher, they said.
Deaths and cases rose 11% and 3% respectively over the past seven days across the country, and hospitalizations rose 6% last week to a maximum of eight months, the Centers reported Friday. of US Disease Control and Prevention.
Travel, delivery and delivery helped increase fast food sales this year despite the closed dining halls. But franchisees told Reuters that sales increased even more when the interior seats were reopened.
PMTD Restaurants had to cut down hours at some of its nearly 40 KFC and Taco Bell restaurants in Alabama and Georgia because they were understaffed when several employees became infected with COVID-19, according to Bill Byrd, president of PMTD Restaurants.
This especially affects Taco Bell locations, as closing at eight in the evening instead of midnight or later means restaurants lose customers at night, which can account for 20 percent of the business, Byrd said.
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