McDonald's Soda Fountain Era Could Possibly End Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

The days of getting your Coca-Cola drink from the soda fountain at a McDonald's might be over due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fast-food chain, the largest in the world, reportedly sent out a 59-page guide on how franchise owners could re-open their locations' dining rooms while still following social distancing guidelines. One of the victims of the new world could be the public soda fountains.

The document, obtained by The Wall Street Journal last week, outlined the challenges McDonald's expects to ace in the next few weeks while states begin lifting restrictions on dine-in restaurants. The company is asking owners to commit to cleaning bathrooms every half-hour and using digital kiosks for customers to order with. When it comes to soda fountains, McDonald's told owners they should shut them down or post an employee next to it to operate them. One franchise owner said he will shut off the soda fountain completely rather than cleaning them frequently.

McDonald's and other national fast-food chains have weathered the coronavirus crisis by offering drive-through and mobile orders while states shut down dine-in restaurants. Now, several states are allowing them to open, but only if they maintain a capacity of 25 percent to 50 percent. The company told the Wall Street Journal that only a few restaurants have opened for dine-in service though. "We have a responsibility to get this right, and sometimes doing the right thing takes time," a company spokesman explained.

Part of McDonald's plan includes helping owners out with their marketing, especially those in areas hit the hardest by the pandemic. Owners will also be allowed to apply for assistance from a "distressed restaurant team" if they have seen a significant drop in revenue, granted they provide detailed data on their sales drop, as well as other pertinent information to get the extra assistance.

Franchisees' top concern, as outlined in the document, was staffing. The McDonald's official franchisee group said employment dropped by 100,000 since the coronavirus crisis started and applications dropped too. In the reopening guide, the company told owners they should expect smaller staffs, and employees will have more to do. The company also advised employees to have wellness and temperature checks and wash their hands every hour. They should also follow social distancing guidelines in kitchens.

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The way dining rooms are arranged will also have to change significantly. McDonald's said it is following guidelines set by third parties, and plans to use stickers on the floors to show customers where to wait for food, similar to what supermarkets have installed at registers. Tables will have to be removed or closed off so customers can stay six feet apart.

Lastly, the guide also provided suggestions for dealing with customers who ignore social distancing, stay around the bathrooms or sleep outside the locations. "Our top priority is safety and, due to our cleaning guidelines, we ask that you refrain from bathing in our restroom," reads one suggestion for speaking with customers. Workers were advised to escort customers sitting too close to others to another part of the restaurant. They should also offer to bring a customer's food out to their car if the customer is not comfortable near others not wearing masks.