McDonald's Closes Dining Rooms, Play Areas To Protect Customers From Covid-19

Even after President Trump explicitly said he was not asking restaurants to close, though many have as state and local officials bar large gatherings and - in some cases - explicitly order restaurants, bars, gyms, venues etc. to close, McDonald's has apparently decided to stay "ahead of the curve" by closing the dining and play areas of its company-owned restaurants, and strongly encouraging its franchisees to do the same, CBS 2 Chicago reports.

Many readers might not realize it, but McDonald's dining rooms serve an important function in society: they provide a gathering place for people who have nowhere else to go, or are living on a fixed income. Retirees often congregate in McDonald's restaurants in the US, and homeless people often depend on McDonald's for myriad reasons, most of which we'd rather not get into, though you can read more about that here.

For these reasons, Micky D's dining rooms are often referred to as a "poor man's lounge", or a "crossroads of humanity."

Perhaps because so many of McDonald's most loyal customers are elderly or poor (both high risk groups), the company's decision is understandable. In a statement, it said protecting customers' safety is the company's "highest priority."

"Ensuring the health and safety of our people and our communities is our highest priority as the United States quickly mobilizes to slow the spread of COVID-19. Our decisions are guided by expert local and national health authority guidance. Additionally, we are complying with all local and state restaurant restrictions, where applicable," the company announced in a news release on Monday.

Another reason for the decision: most of the company's directly-owned restaurants are in Illinois (McDoanld's corporate headquarters relocated to Chicago a few years back from nearby Oak Brook), they will need to comply with Gov. JB Pritzker's order to close all restaurants and bars in the state at the end of business.

In addition to the dining area, the company is closing all beverage and service kiosks. Restaurants will continue to serve food through drive-through windows, walk-in take-out, and McDelivery through Uber Eats.

"We believe this temporary change is the right decision for our consumers, our communities, and our business and will continue to evaluate our operations as the situation evolves," the company said in a statement.

McDonald’s franchisees are being "strongly encouraged" to do the same, and the company says it expects "most" to follow suit.

"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. We are committed to our role in supporting the communities in which we do business and protecting the public’s health by shifting our operations to Drive-Thru, walk-in take-out and McDelivery," said Mark Salebra, National Franchisee Leadership Alliance Chair for McDonald’s

McDonald's employs 517,000 people in a full or part time capacity in the US, most of whom will not receive benefits - though its corporate employees and restaurant managers typically receive benefits including PTO and sick pay).