McDonald’s In a Time of COVID

November 13, 2020

Joe Erlinger | President, McDonald's USA

Billions served.

That’s what the sign beneath our iconic Golden Arches says in front of most of the 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants across America. It’s a bigger number than any of us can count to, but then, we don’t serve billions en masse. We serve them one person, one restaurant, and one community at a time — at a rate of nearly 25 million customers per day in the U.S.

During a normal time, that means that 25 million times a day, we have a chance to delight our U.S. customers with a Happy Meal or Big Mac or our world-famous French fries, creating what we call delicious, feel-good moments for everyone.

But during this time of COVID, it means that 25 million times a day — more than six billion times since the virus began taking hold in February — we’ve had to be especially vigilant in serving our customers safely while also protecting the safety and well-being of restaurant crew and our communities.

So, how does the biggest restaurant company in the world do that in a country as big and diverse as the United States? We do so by giving our U.S. franchisees, and over 800,000 local crew members, the tools and training and safeguards they need to succeed in this moment, and then trusting them to provide the hospitality and professionalism that McDonald’s is famous for as safely as possible.

Like others in our industry, this doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by design. As soon as it became clear that the coronavirus was going to impact restaurants in the U.S., we recognized we’d have to be an exemplar of best practices, for the safety and peace of mind of crew members and our customers, to continue serving them.

In February, nearly a month before most cities began their lockdowns, we sought guidance from third-party contagious disease experts and the Centers for Disease Control in order to develop a 59-page coronavirus market toolkit, with more than 50 enhanced safety measures for everyday operations. With our 2,000 local franchisees and supply chain partners, we then implemented the swiftest and largest operational transformation in our history.

In a short period of time, local crew members were trained in those enhanced safety measures — from increasing cleaning and sanitation; to mask guidelines; to installing protective barriers; to implementing contactless operations in our Drive Thru, delivery, and curbside pickup; to daily temperature and wellness checks, to name a few.

In July, McDonald’s engaged Mayo Clinic to review our approach to customer and crew safety in the pandemic and to share best practices around COVID-19 prevention. Comprised of professionals from both Mayo Clinic and McDonald’s, an executive team holds monthly meetings to discuss the evolving pandemic, associated science, and best practices to help mitigate the spread of the virus in restaurant and office settings.

McDonald’s will soon convene several industry roundtables to share what we’ve seen and what we’ve learned with key stakeholders and peers. This is an area where we don’t see anyone as a competitor; the more that an organization of our scope and scale can share what we’ve learned, the more we can help make everyone safer.

That constant vigilance is making a difference: the rate of infection at our restaurants is below the U.S. rate generally. The billions of Americans that have come to McDonald’s since COVID began can attest: McDonald’s is working hard to do what’s necessary to help keep you and your family safe.

But even one case of COVID is one case too many. And for a company rooted in 14,000 local communities, in a country where the number of new infections has reached higher than 160,000 in a single day, it’s unrealistic to expect McDonald’s to be immune.

Like every big organization in America, COVID has hit us, too. We have seen a number of our restaurants impacted, where employees and their family members got sick. That’s why, from the beginning, we set up a pandemic war room with a COVID hotline that restaurants can call for help. When a call is received, a team immediately responds.

For instance, on the Big Island of Hawaii, one restaurant reported a number of COVID cases among its crew. The restaurant was immediately closed, and the health department was contacted. Following adherence to all appropriate protocols including isolation/quarantine and a thorough cleaning, the restaurant safely reopened.

While we will work toward zero new infections, we continue to ask restaurant teams to reach out immediately through our COVID hotline to report any suspected cases.

After all, McDonald’s success — just like the success of Walmart, Apple, Starbucks, or any other U.S.-based business — depends on all of us getting back to some version of normal as quickly as possible. That’s also why we’ve prioritized an unprecedented level of support for our franchisees, from rent deferral to marketing support, so McDonald’s restaurants could remain open, while continuing to provide jobs and support the local community. The longer we are all burdened by this virus, the more rising infection rates force local economies to lock down again, the more we all get hurt.

But the converse is also true. The more we can work together, the more we can start traveling that hopeful road to health and normalcy.

Because even a number as big as a billion is still the sum of many, many, ones. And that’s how we’ll continue to operate: working to keep everyone safe and healthy. One person, one restaurant, one community at a time.

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