McDonald's, a key buyer of Irish beef, is field-testing new social distancing and food production policies at a single restaurant in hopes of reopening - but this will happen only if the fast-food chain is "absolutely confident" of safety.
“Restarting our business is not an easy task even when reopening in a limited capacity,” said Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald’s in Ireland and the UK.
He spoke out following speculation that limited services might resume soon at McDonald’s, which has more than 100 outlets across Ireland and 1,200 in Britain. Over the past week, McDonald’s in France and Switzerland has reopened drive-thru services at a minority of outlets, triggering huge car queues from customers seeking their first Big Macs since mid-March.
But Mr Pomroy cautioned that the company still is developing safety, supply and production protocols at a single UK outlet and wasn’t ready yet to resume drive-thru or other services here.“We have been listening to our employees and customers as well as engaging with government and trade bodies in the UK and Ireland to help ensure we do this responsibly - when the time is right,” he said.
“We have set ourselves some key criteria for reopening, all of which take time,” he said, noting these include ensuring a safe work environment for staff, compliance with government health policies and “ensuring we have enough supply of fresh produce”.
Mr Pomroy said testing at one UK site would “explore what our reopening might look like” and “will include exploring social distancing measures for our crew”. That site is not open to the public.
“For now we remain closed, and will only reopen when we are absolutely confident we can have the right measures in place to ensure everyone’s well-being,” he said.
McDonald’s is one of Ireland’s biggest beef customers. In a typical year it buys 40,000 tonnes of beef from 18,000 Irish farms representing a fifth of the company’s beef supply needs across Europe.
McDonald’s closed all 1,350 outlets across the UK and Ireland on March 23.