As they reopen dining rooms, restaurants face costs, rules, and changes that may make being open as expensive as staying closed.

Eateries are putting up Plexiglass partitions between tables. Many are budgeting hundreds of dollars a week to buy masks for staff and customers and extra cleaning supplies; others are having to add staff to carry out thorough disinfections after hours.

For chains operating across jurisdictional boundaries, managing the details becomes a monument to confusion.

Among 36 states allowing eating indoors, 19 mandate no more than 50-percent occupancy. Delaware’s limit is 30 percent; other states mandate 25 percent tops. Six states allow indoor dining only in certain counties.

Different jurisdictions dictate different hours eateries can be open; one requires that employees’ temperatures be checked when they arrive at work and be posted where customers can see the results.

McDonald’s reopening guidelines for franchise owners runs to 56 pages, Arby’s to 96. Arby’s also advises franchisees that federal, state, and local mandates “may change and be conflicting.”

“I don’t see us being able to recoup what we lost this year,” complained James Miller, CEO of Vision Investment Group, which owns 42 Subway shops in three states. “There simply wasn’t a blanket set of restrictions that applied to all.”

“We would like to see consistent standards so franchisees don’t have to comply with a bunch of” random, inconsistent, and contradictory standards, said Misty Chally, executive director of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations.

State restaurant associations in Colorado and elsewhere are pressing state governors, legislatures, and health departments to both regularize and ease restrictions.



1 Comment
  1. Craig Bradley 2 months ago


    The reason for the regulatory disorder is a lack of leadership. President Trump has chosen the road of letting the states manage their own houses or affairs. This means some states (Blue States ) have sanctuary cities while others may not. These kinds of policies were operating in the background but did not interfere with doing business, so were overlooked by most Americans as “just politics”. In the end, nobody much cared.

    Covid-19 Restrictions is a new ball game that affects everyone but it is most disruptive to trade and commerce. This is applicable both at home domestically and with foreign suppliers, as well. So, a small local business like a restaurant that has little of no debt and owns its building rather than leasing has an advantage. In contrast, a large chain or franchisee who operates across jurisdictional boundaries has a bigger and more costly management problem. In addition, I suspect individual unit managers now have more paperwork and regulatory responsibilities post Covid-19.

    Bottom line: all this is disruptive to interstate trade and I believe is therefore inherently illegal ( Interstate Commerce Clause). Still, no one person is in-charge and willing to pursue the legal aspects of differing state regulations and restrictions concerning Covid-19. Local small businesses can possibly learn to adapt and put-up with the inconveniences. Their customers or clients can also learn to do likewise or stay at home. Many will just withdraw from the marketplace and economic growth may suffer for it. That is a leadership choice in the end, as an inaction or no answer is an answer or action of its own. All this did not just “happen” on its own.

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