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Will more fast-food restaurants be closing dining rooms for social distancing?

For now, customers can still use drive-thrus at restaurants opting to close dining rooms over COVID-19 concerns

News4Jax reporter, Ashley Harding, joins us to discuss how local businesses are affected by the CDC's social distancing guidelines, which are meant to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry announced Monday new limits on all restaurants and bars in Jacksonville until further notice.

Curry said no more than 50 people will be allowed in an establishment, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Alcohol sales are also banned from midnight to 8 a.m., Curry said. The new rules will go into effect beginning at 5 p.m. Monday. Exceptions exist for necessities like grocery stores.

Vice President Mike Pence was also expected to announce an update Monday of federal guidelines on whether restaurants, bars, and businesses should remain open in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Governors in Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and Washington have all mandated bars, restaurants and wineries close to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis briefly spoke about restaurants and events during his news conference Sunday.

“In terms of restaurants, we want to work with the CDC. People have said just close all restaurants. I don’t know if I’m that convinced that that would be necessary, but I do think there needs to be a certain amount of distance between each table. Maybe have a 50% limit in terms of the restaurant,” DeSantis said.

Some national fast-food restaurants are already taking precautions by closing their dining rooms to reduce COVID-19 exposure through social distancing.

Most are leaving their drive-thru and pick-up options open for customers, for now.

All of this is happening as the CDC is making new recommendations about social distancing, recommending against gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks.

Chick-fil-A

Many Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide will temporarily close dining room seating, according to an announcement Sunday on the company’s website.

Customers can still purchase items by utilizing the restaurants’ drive-thrus, takeout, delivery or mobile order options, according to Chick-fil-A.

The restaurant’s full statement:

“Our highest priority continues to be the health and well-being of everyone who comes into our restaurants. As we navigate the evolving impact of coronavirus on our communities, we are temporarily closing our dining room seating to help limit person-to-person contact. Some of our restaurants may only offer service through our drive-thrus, while others may be able to offer takeout, delivery or mobile order options. Thanks for your patience. We know these are challenging times, but we’ll continue to do our best to serve you.”

Taco Bell

Taco Bell CEO Mark King issued a statement this weekend saying he believed his franchises have an obligation to do something to help stop the spread of coronavirus, so they began equipping their restaurants to serve customers through drive-thru and delivery only, where necessary.

They are also revisiting their training and operating procedures with staff.

Read King’s full statement.

Starbucks

In a letter to all its U.S. partners Sunday, Starbucks announced changes to help with social distancing for customers.

The popular coffee chain will move to a “to go” model in all company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least two weeks.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • We are pausing the use of all seating, including both the café and patio areas
  • Customers can still walk up and order at the counter, through the “order ahead” feature in the Starbucks app, via the drive thru and use delivery
  • We will have a modified condiment bar in all stores
  • You may see modified “order ahead” handoff areas on a store-by-store basis
  • Temporary closures for company-owned stores in high-social gathering locations, such as malls and university campuses
  • Temporary store closures or reduced operating hours in communities with high clusters of COVID – 19 cases

Read the full statement.

Zaxby’s

Effective Tuesday, Zaxby’s service will be limited to the drive-thru only. Zaxby’s encourages guests to practice social distancing and minimize in-person contact by using online ordering, third-party delivery apps and the Zaxby’s mobile app and contactless payment methods. All Zaxby’s team members will continue to take additional steps to clean and thoroughly sanitize the restaurants to safeguard the health and safety of guests using the drive-thru. This includes standard practice of strict cleaning and hygiene-related protocols, disinfecting work areas, equipment and apparel, and not working while sick.

Read the restaurant’s full statement.

McDonald’s

As of Monday afternoon, three dining rooms for Jacksonville area McDonald’s restaurants reached by News4Jax were still open. A manager at one location said, for now, there are no plans to close the dining rooms. McDonald’s on Monday also posted on its website about how it is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak but did not include any information about dining room closures.

Pollo Tropical

Pollo Tropical is offering free delivery, now through Friday, April 3, on all orders placed through the MyPollo app or www.PolloTropical.com. And the restaurant has a drive-thru service, so no need to go inside. It wasn’t immediately clear Monday if the dining rooms would stay open.

Jimmy John’s

The dining rooms for Jacksonville area Jimmy John’s restaurants were open as of Monday afternoon. One employee told News4Jax that could change at any time but said the restaurant is still offering delivery and pick-up orders.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle’s dining rooms were still open as of Monday afternoon, according to a manager at one Jacksonville area store.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Effective immediately, all Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations are following a closed dining room policy. In some circumstances, you can still enter and place your order, but we ask that you consume all products off-premise. Tropical Smoothie Cafe will be packaging all orders as carryout. Tropical Smoothie Cafe is still open for online ordering and delivery.

Additionally, franchise owners have educated crew members on the symptoms of COVID-19 and how it spreads, and have increased the cleaning and sanitizing procedures for their cafes. In some cases, local cafes may close temporarily for a deeper cleaning, but it will continue carry out and delivery service as soon as practical.

Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Mike’s will remain open, but dining areas will be temporarily closed to help limit person-to-person contact, beginning Tuesday, March 17.

Guests can place takeout orders in-store or for pickup through the Jersey Mike’s website or the Jersey Mike’s app. Additionally, delivery is available in most areas through the Jersey Mike’s app or through third-party delivery partners.

Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs is making the following changes:

  • Seating in dining rooms has been temporarily suspended. At most locations, guests can continue to order at the counter and carry out.
  • Guests can also order online (Rapid Rescue To Go), call ahead or choose a delivery option, when available.
  • Some locations may be open for limited hours. Please call in advance.
  • High-touch services, such as the hot sauce bar, have been suspended.
  • The availability of some ingredients or items may be limited.

Tijuana Flats

Tijuana Flats announced Tuesday that, effective immediately, all locations will close at 8 p.m., and beginning on Wednesday, March 18, all stores will be open for to-go and delivery only.

Tijuana Flats said the temporary change is in an effort to limit person-to-person contact and follow the federal guidelines on limiting social gatherings.

You can still order from Tijuana Flats in the following ways:

  1. Order for to-go at the register or at https://order.tijuanaflats.com/.
  2. Receive free delivery on orders of $25 or more through March 31 when you order from https://order.tijuanaflats.com/.
  3. Call the restaurant to place your to-go order.
  4. Get Tijuana Flats delivered from a delivery service.
  5. Curbside delivery, which Tijuana Flats said is coming soon.

4 Rivers Smokehouse

On Tuesday, 4 Rivers announced that it is adding “pop-up” drive-thru stations at all of its smokehouses and effective Wednesday, March 18, and is temporarily suspending all dine-in service.

Guests ordering 4 Rivers food through the “pop-up” drive-thru locations can order in advance online at 4rsmokehouse.com, through the 4 Rivers app or by calling (844) 474-8377.

In addition, 4 Rivers is also offering free delivery on all catering (no minimum order) within a 20-mile radius of a store. To take advantage of this offer, call (844) 474-8377 or order online at 4rsmokehouse.com/catering/. Free delivery is also available through Uber Eats.

For more information visit www.4RSmokehouse.com.


About the Authors:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.