With restaurants and cafes shut all around the country due to the coronavirus lockdown, takeaways have become the only way to enjoy food that’s cooked by the professionals on the high street. However, fast food chains such as McDonald’s have been slower to get back to business as they work out how to keep staff safe. The chain is set to finally reopen 15 locations this week – and the rest of its drive-thrus could be next to follow.
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On Friday Environment Secretary George Eustice said that McDonald’s drive-thrus were “made for the social distancing situation that we are in”.
He suggested that it was very possible that all of its drive-thru locations, where customers stay in their cars and simply order through an intercom and receive food from a kiosk, could reopen during lockdown.
When asked whether fast food outlets could have stayed open all along, Eustice said: “While clearly restaurants and pubs had to close, we were quite keen to keep that capacity to be able to do takeaway food for people.”
Takeaway and food delivery services have been allowed to keep going, providing the companies can adhere to social distancing guidelines in their kitchens so that staff are safe.
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Eustice continued: “We have learned a lot from supermarkets and other food outlets about how you can do social distancing and do it well.
“I think some of those food-to-go businesses will probably be seeking to learn lessons from what supermarkets have done as they consider tentatively reopening.”
However, while some chains such as Pret and Burger King have been slowly opening up again, McDonald’s has been cautious about getting its staff back to work.
The website still has a message to customers to say it is closed: “We’re using this time to make sure that when we do reopen, we can keep everyone safe. When that time comes, these extra steps might mean things are a bit different, temporarily.”
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The chain recently announced that it will be opening 15 locations in the UK, starting from May 13.
The branches will be offering delivery only, and have been chosen for their proximity to the distribution centre as McDonald’s works to get its supply chain back up and running.
The reopening will see the restaurants open with a reduced, limited menu, with no breakfasts being served initially for the McDelivery service, which opens at 11am on Wednesday.
In a statement on the website, McDonald’s CEO Paul Pomroy wrote: “The last few weeks have been difficult for all of us and I hope you, your friends and your families are staying safe. We are very grateful to those of you who have taken a moment to share messages and stay in touch.
“When we return it will be different as we all adjust to this new normal. I want to apologise in advance if our first wave of reopened restaurants does not serve your area. Rest assured, we are working hard to reopen more restaurants, but I am adamant this must be at the right pace with the wellbeing of our employees, suppliers and customers front of mind. Thank you for your patience.
“Slowly, but safely we will return to towns and cities across the UK and Ireland and thank you for your continued support as we work through this crisis.”
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The 15 McDonald’s stores reopening first for delivery are:
Ipswich Cardinal Park
Watford Hertfordshire Arms
Chaul End Lane, Luton
Beechings Way, Gillingham
Sittingbourne Retail Park
Luton George Street
The news comes as many other fast food chains and restaurants have started reopening for delivery and drive-thru services only.
Most recently, McDonald’s rival Burger King revealed it planned to open in every city over the next few weeks, as well as opening its first drive-thru location since lockdown.
Pret has also reopened its locations that are nearest NHS hospitals, while burger chain Five Guys reopened restaurants for takeaway services, attracting huge queues of customers.
Just Eat and Deliveroo are offering the delivery service for many of the chains, bringing contactless deliveries to customers as they stay home.
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