- On Monday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp loosened the state’s shutdown, allowing restaurants to reopen dining rooms.
- Chick-fil-A has not yet opened dining rooms in Georgia, saying in a statement it is going to take “additional time to review our operations and ensure we have necessary precautions in place.”
- Meanwhile, Waffle House reopened dining rooms in areas that have been open for take-out only, adding new safety precautions such as masks for workers, as well as limiting tables and seating.
- While the majority of Chick-fil-A’s business is through the drive-thru, Waffle House struggled with take-away orders, with sales dropping by 70% during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Waffle House and Chick-fil-A – Georgia-based fast-food icons – reveal how restaurant chains are responding to the possibility of reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp loosened the state’s shutdown, allowing gyms, barbershops, tattoo parlors, movie theatres, and restaurants to reopen. However, some businesses have decided not to do so. And, the ones that are opening are establishing a new normal in the restaurant industry.
Chick-fil-A, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, said in a statement it isn’t ready to open up dining rooms quite yet.
“As some states begin to ease restrictions on the closure of local businesses, we are going to take additional time to review our operations and ensure we have necessary precautions in place to protect our Guests and Team Members before we reopen our dining rooms,” the company said last Thursday.
Meanwhile, Norcross, Georgia-based Waffle House reopened dining rooms in restaurants in Georgia and Tennessee on Monday.
Restaurants are reopening with plastic bags over stools, to keep people seating at the counter from sitting too closely to each other. Condiments are not placed on tables, and location-specific capacity limits will mean that certain tables are off-limits for customers.
Why did Waffle House reopen dining rooms, while Chick-fil-A stayed closed?
Waffle House has a far greater financial incentive to open dining rooms than Chick-fil-A.
The majority business at Chick-fil-A and other fast-food chains is through the drive-thru, even before the coronavirus pandemic. About 70% of fast-food business is through the drive-thru,according to QSR Magazine.
Meanwhile, Waffle House’s sales plummeted by 70% during the pandemic, the company’s director of public relations Njeri Boss told Business Insider on Tuesday.
Chick-fil-A declined to offer further comment for this article and, as a private company, does not report sales. But, based on its thriving drive-thru business, investments in tech and delivery, and other public fast-food chains’ reports, we can assume that Waffle House’s sales losses have been at least two or three times as significant as Chick-fil-A’s.
Meanwhile, Waffle House was forced to closed up roughly 700 locations “simply because the restaurant traffic dried up in those areas,” according to Boss. As sales plummeted, 28,000 hourly Waffle House workers lost their jobs, with the chain going from 40,000 workers in 25 states pre-COVID-19 to roughly 12,000 today.
Waffle House’s Boss told Business Insider that the difficulties of the company’s workers highlight the need to balance the risks of the coronavirus pandemic and its related economic crisis.As more than 26 million workers file for unemployment, Boss said that the country needs to find a way to support employees who cannot work from home.
While Waffle House is reopening dining rooms, shuttered restaurants are not opening at this point. Boss said the restaurants will reopen when customers signal they are ready to return.
“It’s a little too early and too soon to know when we may be able to open those closed stores,” Boss said, anticipating a “very graduated, gradual, and slow process.”