Fast food chains close some indoor seats as US cities impose vaccine checks
NEW YORK, Oct. 1 (Reuters) – As New York, San Francisco and a few other U.S. cities and counties require restaurants to check proof of COVID-19 vaccination for dining indoors, some fast food chains are closing simply their seating areas – a move that can hurt their sales.
Burger chain White Castle closed seat sections at its more than 20 New York branches in September, after New York City began asking customers over the age of 12 to prove they had received at minus a dose of vaccine to eat inside.
By eliminating dining options, restaurants are forced to rely entirely on take-out, drive-thru and delivery orders, which tend to be more cost effective. It also means they can eliminate the costly labor required to clean seats and check customers’ proof of vaccination, and perhaps have an additional employee work in the kitchen or counter instead.
White Castle operations manager Jeff Carper said the chain was “able to redeploy some of the workforce to focus on drive-thru, delivery and pickup,” for example.
Taco Bell, a unit of Yum Brands Inc (YUM.N), said it encourages customers to place digital orders for pickup and delivery, adding that “our restaurants comply with federal, state and to keep our team members and customers safe. ” Two Taco Bell locations that Reuters visited had closed their seats inside.
At McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N), franchisees consider several factors when deciding to close seats indoors, including the number of COVID cases, local regulations and staff levels, the company said. As of September 16, 3 of 8 McDonald’s New York establishments visited by Reuters had closed their seats indoors.
“We continue to closely monitor the Delta variant and, as we have done over the past 18 months, remain able to adapt quickly while maintaining our safety standards,” the company said.
Overall, consumer spending at U.S. restaurants rebounded from last year’s mid-pandemic lows, up 9% to $ 440 billion in the 12 months ended August, according to data from The NPD Group / CREST.
But New York’s first proof of vaccination warrant went into effect on August 17, and the city began enforcing the requirements on September 13.
New York City inspectors visited 18,182 facilities Thursday, giving 2,211 warnings and 6 violations of $ 1,000 for failure to verify vaccination cards.
King County, Oregon, home to Seattle, will require restaurants to check for full vaccination proof or a recent negative COVID-19 test starting October 25. San Francisco began requiring diners inside to prove they had been fully vaccinated on August 20. .
Reporting by Hilary Russ, editing by Nick Zieminski
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