*This post is brought to you by McDonald's.
Once bustling and thriving with customers, many restaurants, cafes and pubs were dead silent for weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown, but now they're back in action to welcome their dine-in customers in the new normal.
But is it really safe to dine-out? Will it ever be the same again?
Yes, it is safe, if you pick your restaurant wisely, and no, we don't think it will be the same again, not at least for a while.
Post-lockdown And McDonald's
As one of the most popular international franchise chains in Sri Lanka, McDonald's have been catering to our fast-food cravings for many years, even during the lockdown. They've resumed their dine-in operations now, along with the continuation of delivery through McDelivery and third-party delivery services.
In order to make sure that the customers feel safe getting food from McDonald's, they've implemented a complex of comprehensive hygiene measurements. These steps are strictly followed by each and every operational unit, and therefore, from the maintenance of the outlets and preparation of food to dine-in and McDelivery, they've got everything covered, and under control.
We stepped into McDonald's-Rajagiriya outlet to experience their hygiene and safety measures at first hand. During our visit, we managed to witness and experience the safety measurements they've adopted in their daily operations of Drive-through ordering, Dine-in and McDelivery.
If you're in a rush, but still need to get some food on the go, Drive-through ordering is your best bet at that.
The first stop of the McDonald's – drive-through process consists of a speaker and a microphone, along with a menu board – a standing sign listing the menu items and their prices. In here, you can go through the menu, pick what you want and speak from the vehicle itself and place the order.'
During our experience, we got to observe how helpful their staff is throughout the drive-through process. They warmly greeted us and quickly accepted our order.
Next up, we have the payment counter. Fully covered with a plastic shield, but with a small window to make the cash payments, they've also established a card payment machine here. If you're paying from your card, you can do it on your own here using the touch-and-pay option. We also spotted a bottle of sanitiser here, which they have kept for the customer's use.
And the last counter is to receive your order. Much like the payment counter, this is also well-covered but has a small window in the bottom where you can collect your food from the vehicle itself.
It was a simple process, really, and quick too. No more than 5-7 minutes were taken from placing the order to collecting it. Pretty impressive!
In order to make sure that their dine-in space is COVID-19 free, McDonald has paid attention to each and every one of the guidelines given by the Government and implemented them.
Upon our arrival, our hands were sanitised, and the temperature was checked by a staff member who was fully geared with a face mask, shied and gloves. In case if your temperature is higher than 37.7°C, they will ask you to stay aside for 15 minutes and then recheck it.
Furthermore, no customer is allowed to walk in without a face mask.
Ordering for dine-in can be done in two ways. You can either place your order through the self-ordering Kiosk machine, or via the counter.
I placed my go-to meal at McDonald's (McSpicy Medium Meal) through the Kiosk machine, and it was a smooth experience. You tap on a few icons on a screen, do the payment using your card then and there, and pick up a tent, like I did, if you want table service. Easy peasy!
You can always opt for cash payments too. In that case, you can get the receipt issued by the Kiosk machine, present it to the counter and pay for it. And if you don't prefer table service, you can collect the order from the counter as well.
As usual, the staff was very helpful in this regard. This was my first time ordering through the Kiosk machine, and they were happy to assist me whenever it appears like I need help.
Dinesh placed his order for a Big Mac Meal via the counter. They had floor markers in place to ensure the social distance measurements are at play, and therefore, you'll always be 1m away from the customer next to you.
The staff at the counter was also well-equipped with face masks, shields and gloves.
Ordering Through McDelivery, Is It Safe?
As a matter of fact, yes, it is, very much.
We observed how careful McDelivery riders are in their daily operations. They wear gloves and masks at all times, and sanitise the McDelivery bags and boxes regularly, while being consistent with washing/sanitising hands before and after delivery, and whenever possible. Furthermore, they're encouraged to opt for contactless delivery.
In terms of cash payments, the riders use disposable gloves as they complete the transactions.
The third-party delivery orders are handled by a dedicated counter, so the third-party riders do not step into outlets, and is not involved in assembling the orders.
We witnessed how carefully they sanitise the lobby tables, chairs, table service tents, high chairs, washrooms and trays after every use, or in a half-an-hour basis.
Furthermore, they disinfect the self-ordering Kiosk screen and cashless device, clean the glass doors, handle and condiment centre, and also make sure the availability of the lobby sanitiser.
Moreover, they sanitise the anchor point, Happy Meal merchandiser, play place surfaces, countertop and McDelivery bags every two hours.
As communicated by the local government, the maximum capacity in their branches does not exceed 30% of the total capacity. Therefore, even when there are free tables and chairs, they do not go beyond the given limit.
While offering a good dine-in experience to their customers, McDonald's is well-focused on eliminating the risk of COVID-19 entering their premises. And they've implemented many thoughtful precautions to prevent it from spreading through delivery as well.
It's not just food, they also bring comfort that's full of flavour. Therefore, opting for any of these options with McDonald's will surely give you the much-needed comfort these days.