Last week, McDonald’s instructed several of its franchisees to consider closing off dining rooms to customers once again, as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to make a devastating impact across the United States. Now, America’s third-largest fast-food chain, according to most recent sales data, is also following suit.
A few Chick-fil-A franchisees in Alabama and North Carolina recently took away indoor dining privileges due to rising COVID-19 cases as well as worker shortages, Quartz reported. However, the 2,500 locations affected will still offer takeaway, drive-thru, and delivery options. According to the beloved chicken chain, the decision to shutter dining rooms at these sites is just “temporary.”
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Still, it begs the question—will we start seeing major U.S. fast-food chains switch to a to-go-only restaurant model, especially as the variant of the infectious disease shows no signs of slowing down? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some data suggests the Delta variant may cause more severe illness than former variants in those who are unvaccinated. Currently, the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker shows that only 52.6% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated.
In fact, many chains have already mapped out plans to service more mobile and drive-thru orders. For example, in 2020, Starbucks announced it would shutter up to 400 cafes nationwide over the next year and a half and, instead, open more drive-thru-only locations. As of Jan. 2021, that plan is still in effect. Burger King also announced last year that it would begin rolling out an entirely new restaurant model called, “Restaurant of Tomorrow” that features a drive-in section, curbside delivery, and even food lockers for to-go orders.
Taco Bell is also testing out a new restaurant model called “Taco Bell Defy” in Brooklyn, Minnesota. The new store will feature the necessary infrastructure to facilitate more carry-out and delivery orders, such as implementing multiple lanes for drive-thru windows.
Only time will tell if more major fast-food chains will pivot their current business models to ones that cater primarily to takeaway orders. Until then, be sure to read This One Diet Can Protect Your Immune System, New Study Says to help you stay healthy during this surge of COVID-19 cases. Then, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of the latest fast-food and healthy eating coverage!