In preparation for the reopening of dining areas of McDonald’s restaurants across the country, the fast-food chain sent its U.S. franchisees a 59-page guide introducing new safety protocols that need to be implemented once they welcome back dine-in customers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the several measures stated in the manual is the closing of the self-serve soda fountain stations in restaurants where there’s no available employee to operate them. While this is obviously disappointing for customers who take advantage of the free refill rule, closing them does make sense, as anyone who works in a restaurant knows just how quickly unsanitary a soda fountain station can become. Also, supermarkets have already shut down their self-serve salad and soup stations, so there’s no reason for McDonald’s to keep its soda fountain stations open unless a staff member is deployed to monitor them.
For McDonald’s, assigning employees to man soda fountain stations is kind of a win-win, as it doesn’t only ensure the health of its crew and customers, but also provides a little revenue boost. After all, staff members operating the soda fountain stations means less product loss and subsequently more sales.
In addition to closing self-serve soda fountain stations, the 59-page guide also orders operators to enforce social distancing, clean bathrooms every half-hour, deep-clean the entire dining area every before reopening, and keep PlayPlaces closed during the “recovery phase.” McDonald’s also requires franchisees to install protective panels at the drive-thru and front counters to prevent or slow the spread of the coronavirus.
To ensure social distancing, the restaurant will have to close some seating and tables, and employees will have to deliver food to a customer’s table in a double-folded bag.
Despite introducing all these new safety measures, McDonald’s has yet to announce when exactly its dining areas will reopen, saying only that it “will make reopening decisions that are right for the local communities and help ensure restaurant crew and customers feel safe and welcome.”