Chick-fil-A ($PRIVATE:PRIV_CHICKFILA) never completely closed its popular fast-food restaurants. Most were closed for takeout, but many remained open for drive-thru where available. But the company announced this week that it would reopen restaurant interiors for takeout in the coming weeks. The chain will not offer in-house dining, and reopenings will come with sanitary changes to its layouts.
“Although we are not opening dining room seating or playgrounds just yet, guests may notice changes inside our restaurants including plexiglass partitions and hand sanitizer stations available for their use,” the company said. “Restaurants will provide contactless ordering and ask guests to practice social distancing as they wait in line. Look for signage to help you navigate any operational changes within our restaurants.”
In March, Chick-fil-A put a complete hold on corporate hiring, noting on its careers page that "In light of the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19, the Chick-fil-A Support Center has temporarily paused hiring for Staff roles to allow us to further support and care for our Operators, their team members, and the communities they serve."
By April 1, 2020, corporate job openings at Chick-fil-A's recruiting website had tumbled to zero. It's unclear if the company will fire up corporate and strategic hiring again. As restaurants reopen for pickup around the country, it's likely that the company will want some new headcount on the communications and operations side of the business in order to navigate what is likely to be a future filled with business obstacles.
It's unclear where the Atlanta-based chain will reopen store interiors. Three Chick-fil-A employees reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in Virginia and Georgia. In April, two Chick-fil-A locations closed completely after 15 employees tested positive for COVID-19 in Southeast Texas. Chick-fil-A's store footprint in Texas is vast, and a comparison with self-reported Coronavirus symptoms (as tracked by Facebook) shows that the chain may be facing several challenges in the coming weeks as stores reopen.
Of the 254 counties in Texas, 72 will allow businesses to reopen to "50% capacity". These counties will be required to meet certain requirements to remain open, including having less than five active COVID-19 cases, making tests available, providing public signage describing COVID-19 symptoms along with CDC guidelines and protocols. All other Texas counties will be allowed to reopen businesses at "25% capacity".
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently said that some businesses in his state could start reopenings as soon as mid-May, citing under-capacity hospitals and satisfactory availability of personal protective equipment. He also pointed to the slowing case count as a positive sign for gradual re-openings.
Chick-fil-A responded quickly to reported COVID-19 cases at its Reston, Virginia restaurant, stating "After learning that two team members at Chick-fil-A North Point Village were diagnosed with COVID-19, the restaurant initiated the response protocol and took precautionary measures, including disinfecting and deep cleaning the restaurant. Safe service is our top priority and our restaurants continue to follow CDC and local health department guidelines.”
The chain has a cluster of locations in populous areas like Richmond and Virginia Beach, where Facebook users are reporting symptoms at rates as high as 4%.
Georgia was the first state to experiment with reopening. It's also where Chick-fil-A is headquartered. The state has seen a recent uptick in Coronavirus cases, with Gainesville becoming a hotspot in the past few days.
Chick-fil-A confirmed a case at a restaurant in Cumming, Georgia, but says that the restaurant remains in operation "with approval from [its] local health department."
The fast-food restaurant's outlay in Georgia is largely clustered around Atlanta and its surrounding areas. In almost all areas, though, Facebook reports users with symptoms.
About the data:
The reported COVID-19 symptoms represented here come from Facebook's research, which aggregates voluntary survey data as part of a partnership with Carnegie Mellon Delphi Research Center. Our snapshot here represents responses to the survey as of April 2020.
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.
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