Parents hoping to ease the stress of being cooped up at home during the novel coronavirus outbreak can still treat the kids to Happy Meals—but in many cases, they won't be able to enjoy their fast-food repasts in the restaurants themselves. The chain announced Monday it will be shuttering play areas and dine-in seating in all company-owned locations in the US starting Tuesday, leaving available to customers the drive-thru, walk-in takeout, and its McDelivery service where available, USA Today reports. Per CNBC, McDonald's owns only about 5% of its 14,000 restaurants around the nation, but it's asking its franchisees to follow suit. "Franchisees are strongly encouraged to adopt similar operations procedures while keeping the needs of their people and communities at the center of their decisions," a company statement notes, per USA Today.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, in a video released Monday, CEO Chris Kempczinski sought to further ease franchisees' minds, noting: "We're going to do whatever is necessary to help every owner-operator and partner survive this crisis. We will not let you fail." Franchisee leadership says it "completely supports the decision to adhere to social distancing guidelines and ensure that large groups of customers are not gathered together inside our restaurants," a statement from the head of the company's National Franchisee Leadership Alliance says, per CNBC. In some places, the McDonald's move is moot, as several states have already shut down all restaurants and bars. "There's a quiet, calm sadness underlying it all," the manager of a shuttered Massachusetts tavern that's had to lay off two dozen workers tells the Journal. (Read more coronavirus stories.)