McDonald’s publishes playbook for reopening restaurants

Discussion
Photo: McDonald's
May 15, 2020
George Anderson

McDonald’s, like many companies across the U.S., is chomping at the bit to get back to its normal business, but the new normal described in the fast-food giant’s guide to reopening restaurants looks a lot different than the one that existed before the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The “The Dine-In Reopening Playbook” published for franchisees and company-owned restaurant managers describes in detail the process for welcoming customers back to eat at the chain’s more than 14,000 U.S. locations.

The process begins with regional officials from McDonald’s visiting restaurants once local or state government announce an easing of COVID-19-related restrictions.  The company’s representative consults with franchisees to determine whether or not to reopen for dine-in customers.

The New York Times reports that fewer than 100 U.S. McDonald’s are currently open for dine-in customers. Jesse Lewin, a company spokesperson, told the paper that discussions between McDonald’s and franchisees have been taking place for “the last several weeks.”

McDonald’s publishes playbook for reopening restaurants
Source: McDonald’s

The cost of reopening restaurants will not be inexpensive, according to a Wall Street Journal report. In addition to stepped-up cleaning regimens for ordering kiosks, tables, restrooms and other frequently touched surfaces throughout locations, there will be the added expense of masks and gloves for workers.

Some restaurants may also be required by new regulations to make face shields available to sit-down customers to allow them to eat their meals while seeking to contain potentially virus-carrying emissions. McDonald’s has also provided franchisees with other safety options, including sensor-operated towel dispensers ($310) and touchless sinks ($718). Restaurants that are interested in reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus through door handles can purchase foot-pulls.

Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald’s USA, said the company published its 59-page illustrated guide because all locations will need to meet not only the government’s but its own standards before reopening for sit-down customers.

“We only get one chance to do this the right way,” the guide says.

The fast-feeder has also included a three-page Q&A in its guide to help restaurants deal with customers who may be unwilling to adhere to social distancing and other safety rules.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will McDonald’s approach to reopening restaurants make franchisees, workers and customers comfortable about sit-down dining? How likely is it that large numbers of franchisees will stick to drive-through and pickup sales rather than incur the costs and other associated risks tied to reopening for sit-down customers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"We may see most restaurants retrofit their stores and institute the changes outlined by McDonald’s."
"Franchisees will implement this playbook. The execution of all safety measures implemented will face the highly variable behavior spectrum of both employees and customers."
"And again, the business community steps in where the government doesn’t. A great example of the sharing McDonald’s, Kroger, Target, and others are making public."

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21 Comments on "McDonald’s publishes playbook for reopening restaurants"


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David Naumann
BrainTrust

McDonald’s has a reputation for creating strict standards for franchisees and enforcing them. That is why their level of consistency is one of the best in the QSR industry. Given the history of McDonald’s I anticipate they will get better compliance from franchisees than other chains. We may see most restaurants retrofit their stores and institute the changes outlined by McDonald’s, and the value of the changes will probably benefit the store for many months or even years, as COVID-19 will be around longer that we originally thought.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

The keys to successful reopening are strict standards and communicating expectations to owners, employees, and customers. This playbook includes communication tactics and tools for communicating with and handling customers. Nice job, McDonald’s!

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

And again, the business community steps in where the government doesn’t. A great example of the sharing McDonald’s, Kroger, Target, and others are making public. Without national standards and practices, everyone is left to try to figure it out on their own. McDonald’s is really more in the drink business than the food business so drive-thru is still their strong suit. Every business is anxious to make their customers feel they can be trusted. I think this is going to be adopted by franchisees fairly quickly.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Once customers start feeling safer about dine-in restaurants, many of them would welcome the chance to visit a fast-food restaurant like McDonald’s. But “feeling safer” is a complicated issue. McDonald’s needs to develop strict national standards, regardless of when individual stores are allowed to open, and it needs to figure out how to execute to those standards.

This extends to everything from counter surfaces to restroom cleanliness, and from spacing of associates to touch-screen disinfecting. It’s a big challenge, and a long list. Unfortunately, the typical McDonald’s (in my observation) already had cleanliness issues, from the floors to the tabletops. Does the company (and its franchisees) have the ability to execute much more stringent standards on a national basis?

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

McDonald’s has stepped up to establish a reopening procedure and that in itself is a positive for the industry. McDonald’s is respected for its thorough approach to operations and franchisee compliance. Their blueprint is likely to become a QSR standard and open the path for others to follow, facilitating opening which will be difficult enough. Of the upgrades cited above, things like touchless faucets and sensor operated towel dispensers seem like good long term investments anyway. The biggest financial question for franchisees will be, will these new procedures (such as face shields) last? And if so, for how long? Is it worth the investment?

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The success of reopening will ultimately be governed by consumer demand. From our data, there is a sizeable minority of people who are keen to get back out and dine and shop just like they did before this crisis. However, the majority are more cautious and it will take some time before they believe it is safe to venture out.

That said, I don’t criticize McDonald’s for this approach. Everyone needs to put plans in place to try and resume commercial activities with the necessary precautions and confidence can only be built if things start to reopen.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

It’s important that restaurants create processes to keep everyone safe. It’s also important that customers respect these actions and follow staff guidance. McDonald’s is certainly up to the task; are its diners?

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I can only applaud what McDonald’s is doing. I think it’s hysterical we are getting more guidance from Ronald McDonald than we are from the CDC. I know the CDC tried to publish detailed guidance, but other clownish behavior got in the way.

Dave Nixon
BrainTrust

I applaud McDonald’s for investing in a strict approach to doing this safely. That level of rigor and discipline is what helped them have the most consistent quality in the industry.

But if McDonald’s was in a more charitable mood, for the good of all, they might consider publishing the guidelines (minus the proprietary info) to the rest of the QSR world. The faster we ALL get back to eating out safely, the better for the entire industry.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Every company should publish a manual like this. How is it possible to reopen a business without thoroughly thinking through how you do it? For McDonald’s there are numerous manuals on how to operate. This one is more important than the one that tells you how to cook a hamburger.

My fear is that franchisees will start opening with these guidelines, but as time goes on they will slip into the “same ol’.”

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I am glad to see this – my concern is the inconsistency of franchised locations in a city. This was a concern pre-COVID 19. Will there be someone going to those locations to make sure that the policies in the playbook are being followed to protect the general public?

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Bravo, McDonald’s! This is a great step forward to standardize across the chain by optimizing for customer and employee safety which will result in a higher dine-in share of the market than its competitors. They just need to communicate the heck out of it and make highly visible signage that reinforces the message and intent. Nevertheless, I expect drive-thru business will remain significantly higher than pre-COVID.

Ryan Grogman
BrainTrust

Uncertainty breeds discomfort, and people don’t like discomfort. This sort of playbook provides communication, guidelines, and an overall plan. It will absolutely make workers and customers feel more comfortable. And even though not everyone will be ready to start dining in, it’s imperative that they too see there are approaches like this being put out so they can make their own informed decisions.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I tip my hat to McDonald’s. A perfect example to all businesses of the thought process of a great company opening the doors. Now, planting my tongue firmly in my cheek: how do you eat a Big Mac while wearing a face shield? Maybe it is in the design.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Franchisees will implement this playbook. The execution of all safety measures implemented will face the highly variable behavior spectrum of both employees and customers. Until there is a vaccine, it will be a toss-up based on regular old everyday individual human behaviors.

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust
In the past few weeks I have spoken to many independent restaurants, and also my friends, to get their thoughts on this so-called new normal. The results are in and, unfortunately, the majority of my friends do not want to go out to eat if they have to sit far apart from each other, or worse wear a face mask. This also applies to any vacation spots that require the same thing, as what is the point? My friends who are trying to re-open their restaurants, many are very unsure if they can actually turn a profit with all the spacing eliminating 50 percent of their customers, and the rules for servicing the tables which will require extra staff and expenses in their food handling with each table. Some will continue to do carry out for now, until the smoke clears, and are quite upset in general with how this is phased in. They are also not getting any answers as to the timetable for going back to running their place at full capacity. McDonald’s… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Yes: higher expenses and lower revenues … what could go wrong?

As tempting as it is to blame “rules” it’s ultimately going to be public apprehension that’s going to be the challenge: with large portions (20..30..50%) of people, even in the most risk-tolerant areas, unwilling to dine-out, the capacity reductions may be self-enforcing.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Kudos to McDonald’s for developing a playbook which other restaurants, particularly independent operators, could copy, modify and implement to meet their particular operational needs. The playbook is complete and provides many options to franchisees. The key is worker protection and customer perception that the eat-in option is not only safe, but more pleasant than in-vehicle dining. We will never return to normal. However, the question is what will the “new” normal look like after this crazy time in our lives. Give McDonald’s credit for its leadership position on developing an inside seating game plan that attempts to address the new normal.

Scott Norris
Guest

The McDonald’s in Japan I visited was using many of these procedures a decade ago. Witnessing simple things done perfectly every time, like folding the bag (they bag the drinks, separately, too) make me disappointed in the service levels in this country. Automatic doors, more space between tables, and obsessive cleanliness should have been baseline expectations for QSR this whole time, period.

(Customer behavior is a whole other problem — see the idiotic antics going on at the bars in Wisconsin yesterday. That WILL get innocent people killed….)

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

If nothing else, this article illustrates the sometimes conflicting demands these changes pose: my first thought was that they could avoid all the restroom expense by just not opening them, but then I realized this conflict with the (likely) higher demand for hand washing … hmmm.

While I certainly wish McD’s well, and won’t deny they have their challenges, it’s going to be full service restaurants that need to clear the high jump. The ideas put forth here in CA range from the simple (clean more often) thru the logical, but problematic (reduce capacity) to the inane (no more pepper grinding at tables … are they afraid it will make people sneeze?). I’m looking forward to the day when we can look back at this, laugh, and wonder how we got thru it.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Well done, McDonald’s. This looks like a very thorough and well thought out playbook to re-open with a full suite of new procedures for franchisees to follow. In the absence of guidelines from gov’t leaders, McDonald’s corporate office has stepped in to do what must be done to enable their restaurants to open for dine-in. The real question will be how are they planning to monitor compliance with this? Over the years I have witnessed many compliance fails in McDonald’s restaurant where it was clear either a lack of training or a lackluster franchisee was to blame. The difference is that their customers’ health and well-being are now at stake more than ever before.

Given the thoroughness of the guidelines, I would expect other restaurant operators to adopt this — can we say, “new industry standard”? Why aren’t industry groups entering this process and working with McDonald’s to encourage the spread of these guidelines? The more standard the approach across restaurants, the more comfortable customers will feel dining in.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"We may see most restaurants retrofit their stores and institute the changes outlined by McDonald’s."
"Franchisees will implement this playbook. The execution of all safety measures implemented will face the highly variable behavior spectrum of both employees and customers."
"And again, the business community steps in where the government doesn’t. A great example of the sharing McDonald’s, Kroger, Target, and others are making public."

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