The owner of 13 McDonald’s franchises across North Staffordshire and Cheshire has spoken out after his restaurants were forced to close their dining areas due to coronavirus.
The changes came into force at 5am on Wednesday (March 18) and means that all McDonald’s restaurants are now drive-thru, takeaway and home delivery only.
Now Eddie Leligdowicz, who is responsible for all but one of the Stoke-on-Trent stores, says social distancing measures are being strictly followed.
The 58-year-old, from Newcastle, said: “All of my stores are affected by the changes and we are following guidelines in terms of social distancing and making it safe for customers to still use the restaurants.
“We want to make it easy for customers to use the restaurants at their convenience so our drive-thrus are still open, takeaway is still available and so is McDelivery, which is still working well for us.
“We are encouraging cashless payments and trying to make the best of the situation. We are following social distancing so the seating areas have been cordoned off and all dining areas are closed.
“People can come in and order food to take out or they can use our mobile app to order and then pick it up from the restaurant.
“We’ve put social distancing spaces on the floor so people have an idea of where it is safe to stand when collecting or ordering food to ensure customers are one to two metres apart. So that it is a safe environment for people.
“Our Hanley and Newcastle branches without a drive-thru are still open to customers for takeaway and mobile orders using pay and collect.
“Our lobby staff will still be at all restaurants to help customers through the restaurant and our toilets are still open for customers.
“It’s very difficult for customers and very difficult for staff, but we’re trying to create a happy medium for everybody concerned.
“My staff are happy with what we are doing.”
Eddie is responsible for McDonald’s restaurants in Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle, Crewe, Sandbach, Congleton and Macclesfield – which employ a combined workforce of 1,650.
And Eddie has thanked his staff for implementing these changes in such short notice.
He said: “I’ve got to recognise my staff for stepping up to the challenge, it was like 60 minute makeover.
“The staff did a fantastic job of understanding what was needed and delivering the changes. They were told at 5pm in the afternoon and had just 12 hours to put in place the measures that were needed.
“We had already increased cleaning from the start of the outbreak and staff are regularly cleaning all of the touch points in the stores so glass panels, door handles, toilets and kiosks.
“We are cleaning in between every customer with sanitizer on the kiosks to make it safe and staff are washing their hands more frequently and if they have been handling money they wash their hands before entering a food area.”
Eddie says it is a ‘challenging’ time, but the stores will stay open for customers as long as they can.
The granddad-of-one said: “From a personal perspective it’s very challenging and I am worried.
“The cordoned off seating areas is not the environment that people are used to in McDonald’s.
“People come here to sit, relax and enjoy themselves and to see these areas cordoned off is quite startling. It’s a bit of a shock to the system to me, it’s not the ambience we like to create.
“I’m a business owner, lots of business owners are worried because these are unnerving times for everybody concerned.
“Sales are not as strong as they normally would be and no doubt there will be some sort of financial implications.
“This financial pledges from the government are reassuring, my only concern is the here and now. My pay roll goes through on Friday to pay staff and if I needed any of those benefits now they’re not available yet.
“This affects not just me, but my employees and my customers as well. The longer it goes on the deeper an impact it will have.
“But we’ve had a consistent flow of customers and the suppliers have been fantastic, we’ve got everything coming through and there are no shortages on food items. It just shows you the resilience of suppliers and service providers.
“No members of staff have had any reduction in their hours. We’re taking it day by day and hoping we can stay open for customers as long as it is sensible and without causing any danger to anybody.
“We will stay open as long as we can. We will listen to government guidelines, McDonald’s and health organisations. We’re in the hands of the experts.”
And Eddie says he is looking forward to the day these new restrictions can be lifted.
He added: “Our regulars have been very understanding about the changes and they understand why we are doing it.
“I look forward to getting rid of these restrictions and welcoming people back in to the dining areas when this is all behind us.
“I’ll be happy to get back to normal.”