Fast-food giant McDonald's has been doing its part to support healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic by offering free meals, but the promotion was slated to come to an end on Tuesday. Thanks to the timing of National Nurses Day today, the Golden Arches decided to continue its promotion for at least one more day.
"This Thank You Meal Program we launched was really born from our franchisees and our local communities," said David Tovar, vice president of communications for McDonald's. "We said, 'Why don't we make this a national program? Really try to blow it out, make it huge.'"
This led to a two-week period where the restaurant chain supplied 10 million free meals to help support frontline workers, a value of $50 million, according to Tovar, who also added that the idea to keep the program going came during an online meeting last week.
"We were talking about the program and how it would be coming to an end on Tuesday, and, same thing, some franchisee said 'Well, Wednesday is National Nurses Day, why don't we just extend it by a day?'" he recounted. "So, literally on the spot, our president of U.S. business said, 'Let's do it.'"
Franchisees were then given the option to continue the program and Tovar said that many of them chose to do so. He also said many of them will continue to provide free meals in the days ahead.
McDonald's restaurants were among the fast-food chains to largely remain open for delivery and pickup during the pandemic nationwide, with 99 percent of them keeping some form of operation going. Tovar explained that of the U.S. operations, about 95 percent of restaurants are run by franchisees, who will largely determine how to reopen their dine-in areas using a baseline set by the corporation.
"We're going to set a broad national standard and framework that we want. These are the minimum standards that we think that all restaurants should adhere to, and it's based on things customers and employees are going to expect as they're coming back out of some of the ordinances that are being lifted," he said. Beyond the corporate requirements, franchisees will be given "local discretion" to fully reopen.
Tovar also addressed another challenge facing hamburger chains amid the pandemic: meat shortages. While competitor Wendy's has revealed some supply disruption as meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, it appears that McDonald's is so far weathering the issue.
"Thankfully we haven't had any breaks in our supply chain so far, but we're monitoring it every single day and we're making adjustments as needed to make sure that we can continue to have enough beef supply for our customers," he said.