By Lisa Fickenscher
Helping yourself to free refills at your favorite counter-service restaurant could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the coronavirus.
As it begins to reopen some 15,000 Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons locations across North America, fast-food giant Restaurant Brands International said this week it’s zeroing in on areas vulnerable to infection — including soda fountains where customers can refill their cups as many times as they want.
“We have turned off our self-serve soda fountains and are offering beverages, extra condiments and trays from the behind the front counter,” Restaurant Brands’ Chief Executive Jose Cil wrote in an open letter on Tuesday.
The company has “fully embraced the notion that parts of our restaurants need to change — certainly, for the foreseeable future and possibly forever,” Cil added.
While disposable face masks and gloves are a given right now, Restaurant Brands /zigman2/quotes/202094900/composite QSR +1.14% is also looking into “more comfortable and reusable masks” that become part of employees’ permanent uniforms, Cil wrote.
Staff at the fast-food joints will also be instructed to sanitize tables and chairs after each use.
“We are working very hard to continue to build your confidence in the measures we are taking to keep you safe in our restaurants — so you can more quickly return to a sense of comfort and normalcy in bringing your family inside to sit down for a meal,” Cil wrote.
At Friday’s close, shares of Restaurant Brands were down 19.4% on the year and nearly 24% over the past 12 months, while the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.36% has fallen 11.4% in 2020 and is up 0.15% over the past year.