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For large companies like McDonald’s COVID-19 presents a logistical problem. They have the benefits of large operational teams, and the resources to meet a challenge like this head on, but the scale of their operations adds political complexity across all their restaurants.

Whether you love them or hate them, the big guys on the playground are taking action and how they roll out their plans across their sites can teach us all a valuable lesson.

In this article, we take a look at how two big QSR brands, McDonald’s and Tim Hortons, are strategising to reopen restaurants as and when lockdown begins to ease.

Limited menus

An interesting part of the McDonald’s reopening plan involves launching with only a basic menu. The reason for this is two-fold. 

First, with a reduced capacity inside – or in many places only drive-thru and take away available – they are going to see a dip in profits compared to business as usual. Countering this with a reduced menu allows them to reduce their operational costs. 

The second reason is it means they can have less staff working at any one time. This means they can more effectively enforce physical distancing measures inside their restaurants.

A new restaurant set-up

Both Tim Horton and McDonald’s have also announced some physical changes to their restaurants. These changes are to aid physical distancing measures. McDonald’s has installed perspex screens between booths and at front counters. Tim Horton have likewise installed protective screens at front counter and drive-thrus.

McDonald’s have gone a step further though by delineating safe physical distancing measures with floor markings.


Personal protection equipment (in this scenario we are largely talking about face masks) is a vital addition for staff safety in these restaurants who deal with hundreds of customers in any one day. 

What is interesting is that while both food chains understand the importance of PPE to help protect their staff and their customers, they have compromised by stocking only lower grade of PPE than is used in the medical industry. This is to ensure that their stocks do not impact the vital and already tenuous supply of medical-grade masks and other PPE to hospitals and other health care facilities.

No sick staff

The threat of a sick member of staff, potentially asymptomatic infecting dozens of customers unknowingly is real. Which is why these food giants will be instigating daily health checks on all their staff. 

Going forward staff members will be asked the following questions before each shift:

  • Have they experienced a fever, cough, or any shortness of breath since their last shift?
  • Have they come into contact with anyone who has tested positive with COVID-19?

Each member of staff will also then have their temperatures checked before the start of each shift.

These plans aim to identify which staff members might be at risk or who could present a risk to others. Those identified as potentially carrying the virus will be requested to get a COVID-19 test before returning to work.

Updated training

To maintain the highest levels of cleanliness across their restaurant’s additional cleaning measure need to be implemented. For this to be effective though each member of staff will be given additional training on best hygiene practices, such as cough and sneeze etiquette and how to wear their PPE. This will be paired with a more vigorous cleaning schedule to boost their already high quality of cleanliness. 

Key takeaways

Balancing physical distancing measure and improved hygiene with a profitable reopening isn’t going to be easy.

To safely reopen your restaurant after COVID-19, precautions need to be taken to mitigate risks to both customers and staff. This is being demonstrated by large food chains such as Tim Hortons and McDonald’s which we’ve talked about in this article.

Public safety can’t be sacrificed for economic gains, and, with plans that include a gradual reopening, maintaining physical distancing, and a more intense cleaning schedule, we shouldn’t have to.