Fast food franchises adapt to contactless delivery, curbside pickup models
Those of us who can have been working from home for weeks now, but there’s a whole class of businesses continuing operations, albeit with new business models adopted on the fly. Being at home all the time is a lot more exhausting than it sounds, and while there has been a surge in home cooking, we all still need a break and an excuse to go outside. That’s where fast food franchises come in. They’ve always been popular, but now they and their employees find themselves in an unusual position of being deemed “essential” to the economy.
This has had a range of consequences, including workers across California striking to demand personal protective equipment, more soap, a $3-an-hour raise as hazard pay, and two weeks paid sick leave. And while parent companies for the most part have enough cash on hand to weather a storm such as this, franchisees with individual stores typically do not.
The parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Habit Burger Grill shut down 7,000 stores worldwide in late March. At the same, it set up a Global Franchise Health and Covid-19 support team. Yum is letting US franchisees defer remodel and development payments through the end of 2020. To minimize close interaction between employees and customers, the company has set up contactless delivery and curbside pickup in select locations. Where carryout is an option, KFC and Pizza Hut locations are adding counter shields. Employees will have their temperatures checked when arriving for a shift, and restaurants are working to provide employees with face masks.
Cash advances totaling $70 million are available for Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons franchisees across North America. Rent payments can be deferred up to 45 days, and remodeling and equipment upgrades are on hold. In Canada, Tim Hortons owners and RBI established a $40 million CAD ($28 million) employee support fund to provide 14 days’ paid sick leave for affected employees. Burger King and Popeyes employees diagnosed with Covid-19 or advised to self-isolate by medical professionals or store managers have paid sick leave up to 14 days. Curbside and front-door takeout for patrons on foot or in vehicles too large for a drive-through are being implemented. The marketing team has shifted to improving the mobile app for preorder and delivery along with contactless payment.
Curbside pickup is available where local regulations allow for Arby’s, Jimmy John’s, Sonic, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Rusty Taco locations, in addition to drive-through and carryout. The parent company has created a preparedness task force to help employees and franchisees with the latest operational developments and launched a $1 million Covid-19 relief fund. Buffalo Wild Wings, known as a gathering place to eat wings, drink beer, and watch sports, hosted a H-O-R-S-E competition on April 10 on its Twitch channel. While hardly top-flight competition—it featured Z-list celebrities shooting socks at a laundry basket—it was, if only technically, a return to live sports we so desperately crave.
McDelivery can now be contactless on request. Users of the app can request bags be hung on doors or gates to avoid direct interaction with the Uber Eats or DoorDash driver or rider. Bags are sanitized and taped shut. About a quarter of McDonald’s locations worldwide are temporarily closed. Upon clocking in, employees are asked if they have tested positive for Covid-19 or are exhibiting symptoms or if they have been in close contact with someone who has in the previous two weeks or been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider or health official. The chain also spent April getting thermometers out to stores so employees can take regular temperature tests.
Delivery via Uber Eats is available in select locations, as are drive-through and grocery markets. Locations in hospitals and healthcare facilities have worked with authorities to balance the safety of workers and patrons with the desire to serve first responders and healthcare workers working long hours. The Starbucks app is being updated every 90 minutes to provide up-to-date information on which stores are open. Thermometers are being made available at all open locations, and employees are wearing face coverings. Rewards benefits expiration dates are being extended to June 1. The company has committed $10 million to a global partner emergency relief program to support licensed franchisees.
The world’s largest pizza chain featured franchisees announcing thousands of hires in a commercial filmed via Zoom that debuted on April 10. The ad emphasized that contactless delivery is as easy as leaving a message in the delivery instruction box when placing an order online. It also highlights that pizzas are not touched by human hands after going through a 450-degree oven. The spot went from idea to ready to air in four days, a drastic change from the typical eight months. The chain also donated upwards of a million pizzas throughout the US, including 58,000 in the Los Angeles area as part of its “Feed the Need” campaign. “We realize that there is a great deal of hardship and uncertainty at this time,” franchisee Dan Hosseini told KTLA. “Domino’s wants to do whatever it can to help, and that means spreading a little bit of joy through pizza.”