President: Avoid Gatherings of 10 or More People

After many states imposed their own rules, President Donald Trump recommended Monday that citizens avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and eating and drinking at restaurants and bars.

In lieu of dine-in, the President suggested takeout and delivery, a move that thousands of restaurants across the country have already been forced into in the past week. The recommendations aren’t mandatory, however.

The federal government’s suggested guidelines are stricter than what the CDC put forth, which recommended banning gatherings of 50 or more people. Although there were reports of a possible nationwide curfew, Trump said that discussion was off the table. Meanwhile in Europe, France, Spain, and Italy—where the virus has been particularly damaging—are all under lockdown.

Trump indicated in the press conference that America’s “new normal” could last into July or August. A vaccine trial in the U.S. is now underway with the first patient receiving a dosage, but a fully tested vaccine isn’t expected to be available for another 12 to 18 months.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday the coronavirus situation will get worse in the U.S. before it gets better.

“We have an opportunity now—even though we still continue to see an acceleration of cases, we have an opportunity to blunt that peak essentially make it more of a mound, which would mean less sick people and less death,” Fauci said. “But that’s not going to happen spontaneously.”

Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, Ohio, and New Jersey are among more than a dozen states that have temporarily closed restaurants and bars and restricted service to drive-thru, takeout, or delivery. Puerto Rico announced a curfew that would begin at 9 p.m. and also said most businesses would be closed over the next two weeks. New Jersey implemented a statewide curfew that disallows nonessential travel between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Chick-fil-AShake ShackDunkin’, and Starbucks, as well as other leading chains, have decided to close their dining areas and switch to a to-go model. Taco Bell CEO Mark King indicated in a letter that his brand is prepared to close units and serve customers via drive-thru and delivery if it becomes necessary. McDonald’s made the decision to close seating areas at its corporate stores—which makes up 5 percent of the company in the U.S.—in favor of delivery and takeout. The company requested that its franchisees follow the same guidelines.

Although it’s not the preference of restaurants to switch solely to off-premises, statistics show that digital ordering has been growing quickly prior to the coronavirus outbreak. According to the NPD Group, consumer spending reached $450 billion in sales in the 12 months ending in January. Nearly have of that came from off-premises, measuring $218 billion.

The limitations on restaurants are predicted to have a significant effect not only on sales, but also employees. According to a WorkJam study, 49 percent of hourly workers are unable to pay utilities when they miss a shift, while 27 percent miss rent payments.

As of Tuesday morning, there have been more than 4,400 reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. with at least 87 deaths.

March 16, 2020 / QSR

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2020-03-17T17:38:05-04:00