Restaurants large and small face a major sales slump due to declining foot traffic and mandates from city governments to reduce capacity in the dining room. Meanwhile, larger chains are under pressure to provide more paid sick leave to their workers, and based on the number of businesses now focusing on to-go and delivery formats, we’re about to see a massive surge in delivery orders. Here’s what the week in restaurants and restaurant tech looked like in the wake of a pandemic.
Starbucks Considers Switching to Delivery, Takeout Format
Starbucks already temporarily suspended its reusable cup program last week. Then yesterday, in a letter to customers, company CEO Kevin Johnson wrote that the chain is considering an off-premises-only model for some stores for the time being. That would mean customers could only order via the Starbucks mobile app, and all orders would have to be for pickup, delivery, or drive-thru. Johnson said closing entire stores outright would be a last resort, and that any changes made to store formats would be decided on a “community-by-community and store-by-store” basis.
NYC Restaurants Must Reduce Capacity
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that New York City bars and restaurants must reduce capacity by 50 percent starting today at 5 p.m. Gatherings for 500 people or more have been completely banned. De Blasio said small businesses affected by this change have the option of no-interest loans to consider, and those who face eviction should check the city’s website for free legal assistance.
Restaurants Add Paid Sick Leave for Workers
Darden, the parent company of Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen launched a new sick leave policy this week where employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The new policy applies to about 180,000 restaurant workers across Darden’s portfolio. A Darden spokesperson mentioned that this is a permanent change that has actually been in the works for some time. “We did accelerate the rollout given the current environment,” he added.
McDonald’s announced paid sick leave for up to two weeks for employees that are asked to quarantine themselves due to coronavirus. The policy applies to corporate-owned stores only. Workers are currently demanding paid sick leave for all employees across both corporate and franchise locations.
Noodles & Company is also now offering emergency pay for quarantined workers at company-owned stores. The plan is similar to McDonald’s, where hourly workers who normally do not get paid sick time will receive paid time off if they are unable to work after being diagnosed with or quarantined because of COVID019. The company is said to be working on a longer-term paid sick leave policy for employees.
Starbucks, in addition to its moves above, is also now offering catastrophe pay to workers who have been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19, as well as anyone who “comes into close prolonged contact with someone in their store or household” who has the virus, according to a letter from company president Rossann Williams. These groups are eligible for up to 14 days of catastrophe pay. Additional pay replacement “may be made up to 26 weeks” if an employee is still unable to return to work.