By the end of the day today, McDonald’s will close all 1,270 of its restaurants in the U.K. in response to COVID-19 concerns. That includes takeout and drive-thru options as well as delivery.
McDonald’s sent the following tweet over the weekend:
McDonald’s franchisees in the UK are expected to follow those moves and close as well. Employees of corporate-owned stores will receive full pay for their hours scheduled through April 5.
Previously, McDonald’s had closed its dining rooms but remained open to fulfill off-premises orders around the world. Today, however, McDonald’s U.K. head Paul Pomroy told the BBC, “Over the last 24 hours, it has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing whilst operating busy takeaway and Drive Thru restaurants is increasingly difficult and therefore we have taken the decision to close every restaurant in the UK and Ireland by 7pm on Monday 23 March.”
The chain also fully closed 50 locations in the U.S. on Friday, though those stores were part of larger buildings affected by COVID-19, not standalone locations. Still, the sweeping closures in the U.K. could be an indicator of what’s to come Stateside, particularly where takeout is concerned. Over the weekend, Starbucks ended takeout service from its U.S. stores because of the “high traffic” locations were experiencing. The Seattle-based coffee chain was one of the first to close its dining rooms and switch to a to-go model last week, with McDonald’s and others following shortly thereafter. Which could mean McDonald’s is well on its way to axing its own takeaway services in the U.S.
It seems doubtful McDonald’s would get rid of drive-thru or delivery right now in the U.S., given how important those two channels are to overall sales growth. But with news of the coronavirus changing not just every day but every hour and more states taking stricter measures to limit human to human contact, nothing is a given. This is far from the last time McDonald’s, Starbucks, and other QSRs will have to quickly shift strategy in the age of coronavirus.