McDonald’s is pausing its reopening plans for dining rooms for three weeks following a rise in coronavirus cases around the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal.
To be clear, the mega-chain isn’t (yet) re-closing dining rooms that are already opened. The WSJ reports that McDonald’s restaurants that have already reopened may continue offering dine-in service “if their jurisdiction allows it.” Right now, roughly 2,200 of the 14,000 U.S. locations are open for dine-in service.
But it could well mean that all newly reopened McDonald’s dining rooms will have to shutter again in the near future. The McDonald’s news comes as some U.S. states are seeing new surges in coronavirus outbreaks. Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California lead in terms of the number of new cases.
In response, restaurants that had already reopened or were planning to are instead having to grapple with another shutdown. California governor Gavin Newsom ordered the closures of all reopened bars and restaurants (among other businesses) in 19 counties. New York City halted its plans to reopen indoor dining on July 6, and Texas put the brakes on its own plans about a week ago.
McDonald’s pausing its reopening plans nationwide in response to all this will undoubtedly influence other national restaurant brands that have already reopened some stores.
But like everything else about this virus, when it comes to these re-closures, confusion reigns supreme. In some states, only bars are closed. In others, like California, stops to reopening plans only apply to certain counties. And some businesses are voluntarily closing their doors.
All of this makes for yet-more uncertainty for restaurants, particularly independent businesses that have been struggling to keep the lights on for the last couple months. The hope is that more restaurants are better equipped to deal with dining room closures, now that they’ve been through the process once and have (hopefully) implemented to-go strategies to offset some of the lost revenue. But that feels overly optimistic, given how badly the pandemic has already decimated the restaurant industry.
It also calls into question the long-term viability of some front-of-house-focused restaurant tech solutions that rushed to unveil “contactless dining room” packages. If more states hit the pause button on reopening plans, companies like Presto, Paytronix, and Sevenrooms may again have to pivot in order to remain relevant.