McDonald’s is taking new safety measures to battle COVID. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

McDonald’s is convening industry roundtables and conducting visits to ensure restaurants are complying with safety measures, as the US faces a surge in COVID cases. 

“It is apparent we are entering what many predicted would be the most difficult period of the pandemic,” McDonald’s said in an internal memo on Friday, warning against “COVID fatigue.”

While the pandemic has seriously disrupted McDonald’s business, the chain’s drive-thru business and investments in tech have helped the company recover far faster than many of its competitors. 

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McDonald’s is bracing for what it internally says could be the “most difficult period of the pandemic” with new safety measures and industry roundtables. 

In an internal memo viewed by Business Insider, McDonald’s said on Friday that the company is responding to the recent surge in COVID cases in the US with new “Safety Reaffirmation Visits,” to ensure restaurants are complying with safety measures. 

“The latest numbers are staggering – with the average number of new infections having reached as high as 140,000 in a single day,” the internal memo reads. “It is apparent we are entering what many predicted would be the most difficult period of the pandemic.”

The message continues: “With COVID fatigue setting in, we need to continue ensuring the safety of our people and customers and maintain the customer trust we worked so hard to build.”

Read more: 4 ways McDonald’s execs say the pandemic will forever change the restaurant industry

These Safety Reaffirmation Visits will involve McDonald’s inspecting one restaurant per every franchise organization, as franchisees own and operate roughly 95% of all McDonald’s locations in the US. Each franchisee will be responsible for visiting all the other restaurants that they own and operate. 

The internal memo also said that the company and franchisees will be doubling down on contactless payment and social distancing.

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Joe Erlinger, McDonald’s US president, published a Medium blog post on Friday discussing the fast-food giant’s wider efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Erlinger highlighted initiatives including including safety measures rolled out earlier this year, a partnership with Mayo Clinic, and new plans to convene “several industry roundtables.” 

“That constant vigilance is making a difference: the rate of infection at our restaurants is below the U.S. rate generally,” Erlinger wrote, adding that “even one case of COVID is one case too many.” 

COVID has forced McDonald’s to make massive changes  

While the pandemic caused significant disruption to McDonald’s business, the chain’s drive-thru business and investment in tech has helped the company recover far faster than many of its competitors. 

In early July, McDonald’s announced it was pausing the reopening of dining rooms. While the original plan was to pause reopenings for 21 days, the chain has not had any dining rooms reopen since then. 

Some McDonald’s workers say that the company still needs to do more to protect employees. 

Workers in Chicago and San Jose, California, have recently filed OSHA complaints against the company, alleging that they were pressured to work during the pandemic — even if they or their coworkers were concerned they may have COVID. (McDonald’s franchisees denied the allegations.) 

“While we will work toward zero new infections, we continue to ask restaurant teams to reach out immediately through our COVID hotline to report any suspected cases,” Erlinger wrote in his Medium blog post on Friday. “After all, McDonald’s success – just like the success of Walmart, Apple, Starbucks, or any other U.S.-based business – depends on all of us getting back to some version of normal as quickly as possible.”

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