By Lina Saigol and Callum Keown
McDonald’s began reopening drive-through restaurants across the U.K. and Ireland on Tuesday, sparking massive queues and even police intervention as customers rushed to get their fast-food fix.
The fast-food giant will reopen 1019 restaurants for drive-through and delivery in the next three days, after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close all of its U.K. venues in March.
The first batch of 168 McDonald’s /zigman2/quotes/203508018/composite MCD +3.14% drive-through restaurants opened from 11 a.m. on Tuesday, causing long queues up and down the country. At one store in Newbridge, staff said over 120 people had been through in the first hour since opening, according to a report in the Edinburgh News .
Police officers were called to the scene at several branches, including in the Scottish capital and Redditch in the West Midlands area, as traffic jammed the streets.
“In the last week, on occasion, we have taken the decision to close Drive Thru lanes where demand has impacted local communities or the safety of our people or customers. We will continue to work with local authorities and the police as we extend our reopening plans,” a McDonald’s spokesperson said.
Hungry drivers will be restricted to a £25 limit per car and a reduced menu, while the company said service may not be as quick as normal due to smaller teams and social distancing rules. Customers are also being encouraged to pay by contactless payment methods.
The move is part of a phased reopening of all drive-through restaurants across the U.K. this week, after the company opened 15 restaurants in the south east of England in mid-May for delivery only. “To manage the anticipated demand, we will release the locations of the reopening restaurants on the morning of each day,” the company spokesperson said.
The pilot restaurants had a £25 order cap to cater for smaller teams of staff and social distancing in the kitchens. On May 20, a further 30 pilot restaurants opened drive-through lanes.
Competitors — including Burger King, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International /zigman2/quotes/202094900/composite QSR +2.55% , KFC, which is part of Yum Brands /zigman2/quotes/209029767/composite YUM +0.86% portfolio, and Nando’s — have also been trialling phased reopenings of their restaurants in recent weeks.
McDonald’s said that following the successful pilot, 924 drive-through restaurants would reopen between Jun. 2 and Jun. 4. It will also add 75 restaurants to its McDelivery service, either through Uber Eats or Just Eat.
Employees’ temperatures are being checked by contactless thermometers on arrival at work and Perspex screens have been fitted at drive-through windows, as well as in specific areas in the restaurants and kitchens.