The arches abide: Business steady at McDonald’s, the island’s sole drive-thru restaurant, despite lobby closure

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Obviously, they’re not loving it.

But, that being said, business remains steady, if slightly diminished, at the McDonald’s on High School Road, Bainbridge Island’s only true drive-thru restaurant, in the wake of the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 and recent governmental directives.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that bars and restaurants must close except for take-out and delivery service.

In response, the restaurant closed its lobby and went to exclusive drive-thru service — and things didn’t change all that much.

“We’re running declined, but nothing significant, let’s just put it that way,” said Doug Fenwick, director of operations for the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsula McDonald’s restaurants.

“We’re not affected much. Obviously, we’re affected a little bit, but our drive-thrus were running before this [and] we normally run at about 70 to 75 percent drive-thru anyway.”

Fenwick said most restaurants do business primarily through the drive-thru most of the time.

“I have restaurants that run close to 80 percent,” he said. “Bainbridge Island is probably running about 70 percent — obviously they’re 100 percent right now. The governor said to do take-out only, but we chose to close the lobby because that gets a little too confusing.”

People congregating in the lobby as they wait for to-go orders posed many of the hazards that existed with the dining area remaining open, Fenwick explained.

“So we just decided to do drive-thru only for everybody’s sake.”

Island restaurant employees have so far seen no change to their hours, according to Fenwick, though they are free to stay home if they fear for their safety.

“[To] people who don’t want to work we just say, ‘OK, then stay home,’” he explained. “There are a few people, very few people, like at Bainbridge that don’t want to work. And I get it. So we said, ‘Well, then, don’t work. It’s not a problem; we’ll figure that out later.’”

No employee has yet called off from work due to illness, Fenwick said, only out of precaution.

“They’re just scared of the whole thing,” he said. “Like in particular, I have a young swing [shift] manager that has elderly parents and she doesn’t want to be out in public because she’s afraid of bringing something to them. Other than that, we have not had any real issues with staffing at all.

“Generally speaking, most people are not scared and of course we’re really emphasizing all the personal hygiene stuff,” he added. “We’ve increased our hand washing to every 15 minutes and obviously we’re making sure to wipe all the touch points on a continuous basis inside the lobby. But, of course, the lobby’s closed now, so that’s what we were doing before the lobby closed.”

Business has by and large shifted exclusively to the drive-thru rather seamlessly, Fenwick said.

“I would say we picked up half our lobby, in-store business, in the drive-thru, using rough numbers,” he said. “So we’re down very little. Less than double digits, let’s put it that way, in sales.”

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