Restaurants React to Address Coronavirus Concerns

UPDATE:  As of March 17, virtually all major restaurant chains have closed their dining rooms, but most will stay open for to-go orders, and delivery when available.  Let’s all hope for a return to normalcy soon!

Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks, and many other chains have have closed their dine-in seating in all stores.  Virtually all other restaurant chains have taken measures of varying severity to combat the community spread of coronavirus.

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, many in the United States and the world are restricting their contacts with others, limiting large gatherings, and doing their part to slow the spread.  While we all want to be safe, we all have to eat.  And many of us still crave the comfort food of our favorites even in these trying times.  So, what are restaurants doing about all of this?

Restaurants are doing their best to remain open, yet recognize their responsibility in doing what’s necessary to slow the community spread of coronavirus.  Virtually every restaurant chain has released information about its response to COVID-19 concerns.  In general, expect increased cleaning and sanitation procedures to ensure the safety of your and your neighbors, whether you are dining out, ordering takeout, or having food delivered to your home.  Also, many restaurants are enhancing sick leave policies to keep ill workers home, while preserving their pay.  Here is a sample of some of the specific responses from the larger chains.

Please be a good neighbor and community member to those around you during this challenging time.  If you feel unwell, stay home.  Everyone has to eat, but restaurant delivery options abound.  Go to our EatDrinkDeals Restaurant Delivery Guide to learn more.  If you are in the food service industry in particular, please be smart!

We’re going to do our best to keep this article up to date, but things are happening almost too fast.  Here’s to the day when we can take this stupid article down and we can all get back to our normal lives!!!

Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s hugely popular Free Cone Day, typically held every year in early April, has been delayed until further notice.  Ben & Jerry’s released this statement with the news.

Blaze Pizza

Among other things like enhanced cleaning, Blaze Pizza canceled is popular in-store Pi Day (March 14) celebration that annually offers big discounts to customers.  Instead, the reward would be loaded into the Blaze app for its users to redeem on a future visit.  Blaze posted the unfortunate news on their Facebook page.


Chick-Fil-A published this letter from President Tim Tassopoulos about its efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus.  Effective March 15, Chick-Fil-A has temporarily closed the dining room for all of its restaurants.  You can still get your fill with drvie-through, and some restaurants may still have takeout and delivery options.  Chick-Fil-A posted the news on Facebook.


Chipotle is offering free delivery on any Chipotle order $10 or more via the Chipotle app and from March 15 to March 31, 2020.  Also, to ensure cleanliness, deliveries will feature a new, tamper-evident packaging seal to help ensure food is untouched.

“Our Delivery Kitchen is like a Chipotle within a Chipotle, preparing real, fresh, personalized bowls and burritos solely for digital guests,” Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer in this press release. “Chipotle is the first brand to scale this concept nationally with over 2,500 restaurants featuring the unique set-up for digital orders, and our March Free Delivery offer is the perfect opportunity to experience the Delivery Kitchen.”

Chuck E. Cheese

The dining room and game room areas of Chuck E. Cheese (the best parts!) are closed through March 31.  Chuck E. Cheese will still be open for carryout and delivery when they close for the evening on March 16.  Chuck E. Cheese posted the news on their website.

Dairy Queen

Originally scheduled for March 19, Dairy Queen has postponed their Free Cone Day until further notice due to concerns regarding the coronavirus.  Stay tuned for further updates.

Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs closed their dining room temporarily effective March 16.  Here’s the announcement ton the Firehouse Subs website.


In an effort to support the independent restaurants that make up the bulk of their orders, Grubhub has suspended collection of up to $100 million of commission payments to help soften the blow.

“Independent restaurants are the lifeblood of our cities and feed our communities,” said Matt Maloney, Grubhub founder and CEO in this news release. “They have been amazing long-term partners for us, and we wanted to help them in their time of need. Our business is their business — so this was an easy decision for us to make.”

Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFC has announced free delivery from March 14 – April 26.  Here’s the announcement on Facebook.  To start an order online, click here.


McDonald’s has stressed enhanced cleaning and hygiene standards as well as improved McDelivery procedures to ensure the safety of your food while it’s en route.

McDonald’s posted this address from CEO Chris Kempczinksi regarding coronavirus:

Olive Garden

Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and other popular chains like Longhorn Steakhouse, have recently announced that their 180,000 hourly workers now have a paid sick leave policy.

“Employees that are not feeling well are required to stay home and we’ll welcome then back when they are symptom free,” Laurie Schalow, chief reputation officer, said in a statement.

Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse has free delivery now through April 30.  Here’s the announcement from an email from Outback.  To start an order online, click here.

Panda Express

Panda Express has closed their dining rooms systemwide and switched to take-out, delivery and drive-thru only.  Panda Express posted the news on their website.

Pei Wei

No more dine-in at Pei Wei for awhile.  It’s to-go and delivery only.  Here’s the announcement on Facebook.

Rita’s Italian Ice

Rita’s Italian Ice announced their Free Italian Ice Day for 2020 will be postponed due to coronavirus concerns.  The date was originally scheduled for Thursday, March 19.  Rita’s posted the disappointing news on Facebook.

Rita’s normally celebrates the first day of spring every year with a free Italian Ice for every customer.  Rita’s said they give away more than 1 million free servings on the first day of spring every year.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack is closing up the shack for dine-in.  You can still get their burgers and shakes for to-go and delivery orders.  Here’s the news from the Shake Shack Facebook page.


Starbucks has published a letter from CEO Kevin Johnson regarding precautionary steps in place to combat coronavirus.  As of March 20, Starbucks will temporarily switch to a Drive Thru and Delivery only model in all U.S and Canada stores for at least the next two weeks.  In-store seating is not available, and you can’t walk in and order at the counter.  If your local Starbucks doesn’t have a drive-thru, it will be closed.

As a worldwide brand, Starbucks has more experience than other chains due to its large presence in China, where the virus originated.  For instance, you can no longer bring your own cup or mug to be filled for sanitation concerns.  Starbucks is even considering plans for drive-thru only store visits and/or mobile orders only, to reduce the amount of contact between staff and the public.

Uber Eats

Much like Grubhub, Uber Eats is taking some steps to help out independent restaurants during this difficult time.  Uber Eats will 1 ) offer daily, instead of weekly, payouts and 2) will waive delivery fees for over 100,000 independent restaurants in the U.S and Canada.  Read more details here.

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