McDonald's (MCD) is to close all 1,270 of its restaurants in the UK and Ireland from 7pm on Monday, in response to growing fears over the coronavirus pandemic.
Nando's has also announced that it has closed all its 420 UK restaurants “until further notice” following concerns about maintaining safe social distancing.
The decisions come after prime minister Boris Johnson called for pubs, clubs and restaurants to shut on Friday, but said that food outlets could continue with takeaway service.
In a statement on Twitter, McDonald’s said the “difficult decision” had been made with “the well-being and safety of our employees in mind as well as in the best interests of our customers.”
The decision will affect the company’s 135,000 UK employees, the majority of which are on zero-hours contracts.
The fast food giant said it would pay staff employed directly by the company full pay for their scheduled hours until 5 April.
After that time it expects the government's financial aid measures, announced on Friday, which includes paying up to 80% of workers’ wages, to have come into effect.
A spokesperson told the BBC that the company expected McDonald's franchises, which decide their own pay policies, to do the same.
Last week the chain closed all its restaurant seating areas but was continuing with takeaways, drive-thrus and delivery operations. It also cut its opening hours and scrapped its annual Monopoly promotion, which includes foreign holidays and cruises as prizes, until later in the year.
An update from McDonald’s UK and Ireland — See you soon pic.twitter.com/43moFRrWRR— McDonald's UK (@McDonaldsUK) March 22, 2020
Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald’s UK & Ireland, said: “Over the last 24 hours, it has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing whilst operating busy takeaway and Drive Thru restaurants is increasingly difficult.”
“We have not taken this decision lightly and know that our restaurants have been playing an important role in the community providing hundreds of thousands of free drinks to frontline health and social workers and emergency services personnel.
“But I have been clear throughout this that we would only continue to operate whilst it was safe for our people and together with our franchisees, we feel now is the time to make this decision to temporarily close.”
In a Twitter post on Sunday Nando's said it had “decided that the best course of action right now is to temporarily close our restaurants”.
Nando's employs around 20,000 workers in the UK.
The piri-piri chicken restaurant said “the health and safety of our customers and team is our highest priority”.
The hospitality industry has been put under severe pressure by the coronavirus, with industry leaders fearing that 500,000 jobs may have already been cut due to the pandemic.
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