The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many of us do things — and fast-food restaurants are no exception. They’ve had to get rid of many of the things we’d grown accustomed to in order to protect customers and workers from COVID-19. That being said, here are 10 things fast-food restaurants aren’t bringing back due to the pandemic.
10. Large Menus
If you’ve been through any fast-food drive-thru lately, you might have noticed something different about the menu. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many fast-food restaurants have been simplifying and streamlining their menus. Some changes have been temporary while others are permanent. In fact, McDonald’s franchisees say they want to make limited menus a permanent thing altogether. “The limited menu and ease of operations are allowing our teams to focus and provide blazing fast service,” Blake Casper, chairman of the National Owners Association at McDonald’s independent franchise association said in an update to the association’s members as reported by Restaurant Business Online. “We are convinced. Keeping our menus simplified is your NOA’s number one priority,” Casper said.
9. Self-Serve Soda Fountains
There are some youtube videos out there of British folks amazed by the fact that Americans get free refills on their drinks at restaurants. Unfortunately, we might have to bid farewell to those free soda refills. Removing self-serve soda fountains is one of the many changes being implemented at fast-food restaurants across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to an article published by Eat This, Not That!, new reports show that more than 15,000 Burger King, Popeye’s, and Tim Horton’s locations across North America have removed self-serve soda fountains. McDonald’s followed suit shortly thereafter.
8. Table Condiments
The next time you go to a restaurant, you probably won’t see any condiments on the table. Instead, you’ll find individual ketchup packets as opposed to ketchup bottles — and even the packets won’t likely be on the table. You will have to ask your server to bring them to you. The same thing goes for butter packets and napkin dispensers. And, if you’re dining at IHOP, you likely won’t see any syrup bottles on the table either. Instead, the restaurant is now using condiments provided in single-use containers.
7. Salad Bars
Many salad bars and other buffet-style restaurants had to temporarily close their doors when the coronavirus pandemic first hit. Unfortunately, a lot of those establishments won’t be reopening for that very same reason. One such restaurant was Sweet Tomatoes, a chain known for its all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar. It recently closed all of its locations because it was unable to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. “The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets,” John Haywood, CEO of Garden Fresh, the parent company of Sweet Tomatoes, said in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen,” Haywood added.
There is a bit of good news, though. Buffet-style restaurant Golden Corral has managed to stay open by switching to a cafeteria-style food line. “[It’s] still endless helpings, only now we serve you,” Golden Corral said, according to Eat This, Not That!
6. Reusable Menus
IHOP and some other restaurants with a similar dining style are ditching reusable menus for single-use paper menus in an attempt to decrease high-touch surfaces in their establishments. Meanwhile, other restaurants are doing away with physical menus altogether and have, instead, turned to QR codes that can be scanned to pull up a digital menu on customers’ cell phones.
Getting rid of reusable menus makes sense. Think about it: how many times have you gone to a restaurant and the server handed you a sticky menu? Gross, right? Now, think about them handing you a sticky menu during the coronavirus pandemic. Kinda makes you happy about the decision of switching to single-use menus, doesn’t it?
5. Paying with Cash
In April, some fast-food restaurants began providing customers with easy-to-use contactless payment methods. Starbucks, for example, set up contactless payment methods through its own app.
“The handling of cash creates consumer concerns about the spread of the virus,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said on the company’s website. As a result, “we predict the mobile app will become the dominant form of payment.”
Meanwhile, other eateries have been using third-party apps like Allset, which lets you pre-order food at local restaurants.
4. All-Day Breakfast
Breakfast sales have taken a major hit at fast-food restaurants. According to Forbes, The NPD Group stated that “the morning meal, which represents a breakfast or morning snack occasion, has suffered the steepest transaction declines. Morning meal customer transactions at major restaurant chains fell by 18 percent in the week ending June 7 compared to the same week year ago.” As a result, McDonald’s got rid of its all-day breakfast with no word on when, or if, it’s ever coming back.
3. Dine-In Crowds
Restaurants have already been limiting the number of patrons allowed in their establishments at one time, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon.
“Coronavirus cases are on the rise in some states, which is causing a new wave of restaurant closures and postponed reopenings — very much a reality that’s here to stay,” Eat This, Not That! wrote in an article. “Even when restaurants reopen, they likely won’t be operating at full capacity or welcoming crowds for a long while.”
2. Unwrapped Straws
Remember those unwrapped straws placed in dispensers at self-service beverage stations in fast-food restaurants and coffee shops? Well, they are quickly becoming a thing of the past. And, with good reason, too. We are still in the middle of a pandemic, after all. And, the last thing any of us would want is a bunch of hands potentially touching the straw that’s going to go in our drink. Not only that but all those hands touching the straw dispenser itself can put people at risk of contracting the virus. That’s why the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has advised restaurants to remove unwrapped straws from self-service drink stations.
1. Choosing Your Own Seating Arrangements
Many of us have our favorite place to sit — whether it be at home, at church, or even at a restaurant. If this is you, then we have a bit of bad news for you. After fast-food dining rooms reopen, you won’t be allowed to sit in your favorite spot anymore. Instead, you and other guests will have to sit in designated seats at designated tables. And, here’s another thing: pushing tables together and adding additional chairs at the table to accommodate large parties will be prohibited as well.