These are tough times for a lot of people and businesses around the world. The fast food industry has been affected in many ways, but these unique circumstances also present an opportunity for the industry to serve their customers in new ways. Here are the Top 10 Ways the Fast Food Industry is Affected by the Corona Virus.
10. Coffee in the Age of COVID-19
When a Starbucks employee tested positive for the Corona Virus the first week of March, the fast-food chain knew they would have to make changes. Like others in the fast food industry, the Starbucks Corporation has been working with its thousands of employees to decrease their risk and the risk to the customers they serve. The most basic thing for them is to be vigilant about sanitizing the stores as often as possible. The fast-food employees are urged to practice the social distancing techniques everyone’s been hearing about. They must be careful to practice these techniques with each other as well as with customers while still getting their job done. According to news reports a drop in sales may be inevitable, according to a recent survey by restaurant-industry researcher Technomic. Though the coronavirus hasn’t been a concern in the U.S. long enough to be reflected in sales figures.” The same survey suggested that about 1 in 3 Americans planned to stay closer to home for a period of time even when the pandemic begins to recede. Americans love coffee so they will continue to go out and get it if they can. Many Starbucks locations have a drive-thru which is the method of choice for fast-food companies to continue to deliver service to their customers as the virus spreads. Will delivering coffee to peoples’ homes become common? As long as it can arrive hot, why not? And you can always put it in the microwave to warm it up.
9. Ronald McDonald Implements Employee Health Checks
The virus spreading around the world is no laughing matter, but that doesn’t mean Ronald McDonald doesn’t have a role to play. The McDonald’s Corporation decided to start comprehensive health checks for all employees. This means that everyone will have their temperature checked before they start their shift. The fast-food chain is calling the new guidelines “extra precautionary measures” that will be left in place until the threat has passed. Employees will also be asked if they have been diagnosed with the virus, whether they are showing any symptoms associated with the disease and whether they have been in contact with anyone who has been infected with it. These are common sense guidelines that most businesses, but especially fast-food restaurants, would be wise to put into use if they haven’t already done so. Even though McDonald’s and the other fast-food chains are trying to reduce contact between employees and customers to a minimum, there will still be a certain amount of interaction that can’t be avoided. It is important to keep things in perspective while we’re navigating these difficult times. We also have to remember that in life there is always a certain amount of risk. This risk is relatively small, but it makes the health checks a very smart idea that should help to alleviate the stress levels of employees and customers alike.
8. Virus Stalks Canada’s Donut Shops
Tim Hortons is sort of the Dunkin’ Donuts of Canada, well known for its tasty coffee and doughnuts. It’s a high profile fast-food business, and it’s taken some hits in the court of public opinion with friction being reported between corporate headquarters and the people working in the stores around the country. One of the issues that received so much bad press was the policy requiring employees to provide a note from a doctor to take unpaid sick leave. In response to this unfortunate situation, Tim Hortons has set up a $40 million dollar fund to support its employees that are affected by the pandemic. These funds will provide some comfort to people affected by events beyond their control. Like most fast-food restaurants in America and around the world Tim Hortons in Canada has switched the focus of its operations to take-out, drive thru and delivery. These services allow customers to still enjoy Tim Hortons’ coffee and doughnuts during this unique time, with only a minimum amount of risk for their employees and the customers. Keeping places like Tim Hortons open during the pandemic might seem like a small thing to some people. However, it is being able to keep these little normalities as part of our daily lives that will help carry us all through to the end of this unfortunate situation.
7. Wash Me!
Some fast-food chains have long been known to put an emphasis on cleanliness in their restaurants, including McDonald’s, but the pandemic has brought increased attention to basic hygiene. When the plague struck Europe in the Middle Ages, most people did not appreciate the importance of personal hygiene and the cleanliness of one’s surroundings. With the emergence of this new virus, America’s Centers for Disease Control and pretty much every health institution on the planet is imploring people to take special care to wash their hands thoroughly and often. Thankfully COVID-19 is nothing like the plague, but it still requires us to be vigilant about hygiene. These measures are even more crucial for the fast-food restaurants that need to keep their employees safe as they continue to show up for work to cook food and interact with the public. Surfaces such as countertops and door handles need to be cleansed regularly because there is evidence the virus can linger on surfaces for long periods of time. Fast-food chains have also announced new policies that describe regular deep cleaning of their locations to reduce the chances that the virus could remain. While many businesses have shut down during the pandemic, the virus has brought a surge in demand for products and equipment sold by cleaning companies. Perhaps a lasting benefit of the pandemic is that we will all learn to appreciate the importance of cleanliness and hygiene a little more and the relationship to good health.
6. It’s Not Fast-Food its Delivery
Restaurants have used companies like Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats for years to make fast-food even more convenient by delivering your favorite menu items right to your door. These services were offered for a fee of course, but the pandemic is starting to change this. Chains like the Mexican themed fast-food restaurant El Pollo Loco is offering free delivery to its customers for the duration of the stay at home orders. No one is quite sure how long these orders will last, but it’s likely most Americans will be staying home throughout the month of April. Fast-food restaurants have been a convenient way to get a quick meal, but now more people find themselves relying on them when they don’t feel comfortable going to grocery stores as often as they did before the pandemic started. El Pollo Loco isn’t the only fast-food chain offering free delivery; some of the other restaurants participating include Burger King, Chipotle, Denny’s and Del Taco. Many of these restaurants offer this service for free with orders of at least $10, which seems reasonable, since if you’re ordering a full meal you’re going to spend at least that much anyway. You’re getting the convenience of someone bringing food to your door so if there’s any doubt about reaching that $10 dollar minimum then you might as well splurge and order an extra burger or some churros for later.
Events have been moving fast since the emergence of this virus, and the effects on the fast-food industry have appeared just as fast. There have been some bright spots in the midsts of the bad news such as the online movement called #GreatAmericanTakeoutDay. Near the end of March the movement encouraged people across America to order takeout from local restaurants to support them in their time of need. This is the kind of thing most people can get behind because we all have to eat anyway. However, it has also been necessary to address people’s concerns regarding ways the virus might be transmitted during food preparation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has put out some timely guidance informing the public that it is very unlikely someone could contract COVID-19 by eating food purchased at a restaurant. According to the statement, cooking the food eliminates any threat from the virus. It also recommends paying for your food over the phone or on the Internet to avoid contact with fast-food employees or delivery people as much as possible. As these trying times seem likely to continue for a few months, fast-food restaurants remain a safe and tasty option for you and your family. Also, don’t forget that your continued patronage of these restaurants can help keep people employed.
4. Setting up Dominos
While many restaurant workers have been either furloughed or laid off across the fast-food industry, there are exceptions to this. Dominos, the popular pizza chain, has put out the word that it is actually hiring both part-time and full-time employees to staff its kitchens and to deliver its pizzas. The CEO of Dominos released a statement saying that the company needs the help, but also said they feel an obligation to do what they can to help workers in need of a job. This will be good news for people as the unemployment rate continues to rise. Dominos is obviously most known for its pizza, but the fast-food chain offers a fairly extensive menu that includes a wide range of items. The choices include chicken nuggets, wings, and boneless wings in a variety of flavors. Dominos restaurants also offer a good selection of sandwiches such as Chicken Habanero and Philly Cheese Steak. If these choices aren’t enough then maybe you’d like to try the pasta dishes such as Pasta Primavera and Chicken Alfredo. For those with a sweet tooth Dominos offers cinnamon bread twists, cookie brownies and chocolate lava cake. This is a pretty comprehensive menu for a “pizza” restaurant so you should be able to find something you like no matter what you’re craving. Also, don’t forget to check out your local independent pizza shops that offer their own unique take on pizza.
3. Not All-Day Breakfast
Fast food restaurants have all been forced to close their dining areas, this was an obvious outcome to covid-19 and people social distancing as much as possible. But now entire sections of menus are being affected. McDonald’s decided that during the time of this pandemic, they will no longer be offering all-day breakfast. It’s such as shame seeing as if with so many people at home, work and sleep schedules are shifting. Breakfast all-day was made for this. Unfortunately, during these times, McDonald’s, like many companies, are trying to simplify their processes. They say that by removing all-day breakfast from the menu, they are able to streamline all their other operations. This is, well, a bummer for those of you who were counting on McDonald’s for that late breakfast. McDonald’s and it’s customers were in a back and forth for years over what times breakfast should be served. But finally in 2015, McDonald’s put an end to the scuffle and just went all out and introduced all-day breakfast. This move was a hit with fans and McDonald’s has been proudly serving breakfast all-day since. That is until now of course. Unfortunately, it sounds like all-day breakfast was only the first cut to take place on the menu. As McDonald’s does plan to cut other, less popular menu items soon in an effort to streamline all their processes even further. This way you can get all their favourites, quickly and efficiently during these times.
2. Chinese Fast Food
The Corona Virus is believed to have emerged from a “wet” or live animal market in the city of Wuhan, China in late 2019. This form of Corona Virus that attacks the respiratory system and has caused dire consequences not just in China has spread around the globe as cases of the virus, now officially called COVID-19, continue to mount. With well over a billion people, China supports a huge fast-food industry. Yum China operates thousands of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell locations across the country. Some of these fast-food restaurants have seen as much as a 40% drop in sales since January 2020. This is partly because, in response to the virus, Yum decided to close 3,000 restaurants, which amounts to 30% of its locations on Chinese soil. Since the beginning of April, China has tried to get its economy back on track again. Like in America and other places, the fast-food industry there has to adapt to unexpected conditions. With in-store dining shut down across the country, many restaurants have switched to contactless in-store pickup. Customers are allowed in the store only to take their waiting orders from a shelf. In similar fashion, delivery drivers have been trained to leave fast-food orders at a designated drop off point near a customer’s home. Unfortunately it seems like these measures will be enforced for some time.
1. Who’s Essential Now?
Maybe we didn’t think of fast-food chains as essential businesses or their workers to be essential to the smooth operation of society, but this viewpoint has all changed. The disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have helped to show what is most important. Obviously food is a priority for everyone in good times and bad, but restaurants, grocery stores, warehouses and the farmers who supply them have been taken for granted. Governments consider fast-food restaurants and eating establishments in general as essential businesses. Keeping restaurants open for business helps take the pressure off grocery stores and their workers who are currently struggling to keep staples on their shelves. The convenience of being able to drive up to a window and quickly receive relatively inexpensive food has been magnified many times over by the circumstances the world is experiencing at the moment. The people who work in the fast food industry are on the front lines risking life and limb so populations won’t just survive, but continue to thrive under trying circumstances. This isn’t just unskilled labor and flipping burgers. These are the heroes who don’t get paid nearly enough as is. While this virus and the effects it has inflicted on the fast-food industry and the rest of us will pass sometime in the near future, hopefully the world won’t soon forget the value of these heroes we’ve relied on and who were there when we needed them the most, even in these dangerous circumstances where their own health is at risk. Thanks to all the essential workers who are on the front lines making a difference.