US fast-food giants are playing their part to slow the coronavirus epidemic by limiting dine-in services in favour of a ‘to go’ strategy of social distancing.
McDonald’s and Starbucks are among the firms changing their working practices by closing restaurant areas to focus on takeaway and delivery services as an anxious population adopt ever more stringent lifestyle changes to keep the virus at bay.
A majority of McDonald’s franchises have now agreed to shutter touchscreen self-service kiosks and children’s play areas while Starbucks will close outlets completely in areas afflicted with high numbers of cases.
The strategy accelerates prior moves by McDonald's to invest heavily in its app, which entices customers to place their order before they even set foot in the door with exclusive discounts. A path already trod by Starbucks which boasts 16.8m users of its mobile app.
In a statement Mark Salebra, chair of McDonald’s National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, said: “Franchisee leadership completely supports the decision to adhere to social distancing guidelines and ensure that large groups of customers are not gathered together inside our restaurants.”
Delivery and digital services have experienced unprecedented demand during the outbreak as consumers hunker down at home rather than risk exposure to coronavirus, fuelling a surge in demand for Deliveroo and Netflix benefitting from a surge in customers.
The future of food delivery could now arrive sooner than we think with restaurants forced to adapt or die amid the unprecedented tumult, pushing the likes of Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Uber into the arms of self-driving cars, drones and robotics.