Fast food sector taking precautions against virus

KFC have voluntarily suspended their in-restaurant dining facilities for the time being while the threat of COVID-19 looms.

Local fast food chains are busy taking precautions against the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus), like most other businesses in Australia and the world right now, aiming to minimise the potential spread of the virus with social distancing and hygiene methods.

Tumut McDonald’s store manager Kiera Beaven said that their team has been proactive in implementing all the cleaning and safety mechanisms being communicated to them.

“We have to make sure every case is clean, every table delivery is clean, we have to wipe over our kiosks every time someone uses it, we’re all having to clean constantly, [and] we have to wear gloves all the time rather than just when we’re doing food prep,” she said.

The store also can’t accept ‘keep cups’ for hot drinks anymore, and are unable to serve McCafe food and drinks on reusable glassware – it has all been switched to disposable to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

“If it gets worse, we [will] shut down the internal dining area and do drive-thru only,” she said.

Beavan and the rest of the McDonald’s Tumut staff are hoping it doesn’t come to this, though, especially because right now there are no confirmed cases of the virus in the Riverina region.

McDonald’s have raised all of their cleaning and hygiene procedures and have implemented a variety of strategies to minimise the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Fear of the virus has impacted the number of customers they’re getting.

“It’s taken a big swing in our sales, a lot of people are worried about what’s going to happen, are we gonna be open,” Beaven explained.

For the time being, staff are just following advice and being vigilant with cleaning and hygiene.

“The health and safety of our guests and staff are our main priority at the moment,” she said.

“Our doors are still open, we’re not shut yet, and we’re still going.”

Around the corner at Pizza Hut, Manager Jenny Fairlie said that deliveries have been up, and they are also being extra vigilant when it comes to hand washing and increased cleaning efforts.

Mrs Fairlie said that staff members are now wearing gloves at the front counter when handling money, and washing their hands and sanitising frequently. Additionally, they sanitise the tables and front counter every half an hour.

Pizza Hut has begun offering a ‘self isolation’ option when ordering online, in which customers can designate a drop off point outdoors for their order, with the Pizza Hut delivery person calling from outside to let them know when it arrives. This is being utilised by those in the city, but she said there is no real need as of yet for this in Tumut.

Because of this new feature, and delivery capabilities in general, Pizza Hut sales have been on the rise in cities, with some Sydney stores up by 46 per cent.

Mrs Fairlie said that the increased sales in the city have begun having a flow-on effect on her store.

Last week, they were unable to buy green capsicum from their supplier as it was all gone. Regional Pizza Huts have to wait for a weekly delivery of supplies, rather than be able to visit the warehouse daily in Sydney. Mrs Fairlie is “interested” to see the impact of this flow-on effect on Tuesday when the next batch of stock arrives.

Sales were also down slightly last week due to the cancellation of various sporting clubs and events, called due to concerns about the spread of virus.

Mrs Fairlie says they are lucky to have the delivery service to bring in revenue and keep serving customers.

“That’ll be a big bonus for us, that there is the delivery option for people,” she said.

“That’s a bit of a community service, if we can still help [the community] out by delivering.”

At KFC on Capper Street, the indoor dining room has been completely closed, with drive-thru and pickup/takeaway being the only options available to customers right now in an effort to support social distancing in the community.

All team members will undergo compulsory COVID-19 training on increased safety measures and hygiene standards. There will also be compulsory use of hand sanitiser after every cash transaction, increased frequency of hand washing, expanded restaurant health and hygiene procedures and the trial of a ‘kerbside service’ where restaurant team members will deliver click and collect orders to the carpark.

Signs detailing the changes were stuck all around the KFC store in Tumut.

Enquiries made at the Tumut store were redirected to KFC’s headquarters.

Nikki Lawson, CEO of KFC Australia and New Zealand said, “the health and wellbeing of our customers, team members and the community are (sic) the number one priority.”

“While we’ve temporarily suspended eating-in at our restaurants, fans of KFC will still be able to come in to order, but only to pick-up and use drive-thru,” she said.

“For all of our restaurant teams, we’ve introduced a question (on our clock in system) that asks them if they have checked their temperature and if they feel ok to start their shift, and we’ll continue to communicate our health and safety measures with our teams and their parents/guardians to ensure their well-being.”