Fast-food chain McDonald’s is reopening 24 restaurants across Northern Ireland for drive through only, as part of easing out of coronavirus lockdown.
The company has said it is anticipating high demand and will work with police and local councils to ensure customers and staff remain safe.
Sites may have to close again if queues cause traffic disruption or other such issues.
However, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has welcomed the move, highlighting the contribution McDonald’s makes to Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry.
According to the company, its latest economic report found that it supported local farmers to the tune of £23m by using local produce such as milk and beef.
It has longstanding supply chain relationships with a number of local firms including Kerry Group, Huhtamaki, and Moy Park.
The importance of getting this market open and moving again cannot be underestimated and will be a relief for many of those who supply McDonald’s with their high-quality, locally reared beef and dairy produce.
“The reopening of McDonald’s is very encouraging and welcome news for our beef and dairy sectors,” Mr Poots said.
“Fast food outlets purchase large quantities of produce from our farmers and their temporary closure had a big impact on the agri-food sector.
“They have gone to great lengths to put in place social distancing measures that will protect their staff and their customers.”
Mr Poots added: “As we move into recovery after Covid-19, my priority has been and will continue to be ensuring that we have a profitable and sustainable agriculture sector that is ready and able to meet the rising demands of the market once it opens fully again.”
McDonald’s is initially reopening its sites with reduced hours, smaller teams, and limited menus.
Social distancing has been introduced in kitchens and service areas, while Perspex screens have been installed to protect staff.
Employees will also be wearing protective equipment and will have their temperature checked on arrival for every shift.
A company statement said: “As employees and the business adapt to a new way of working, McDonald’s would like to thank customers for their continued support and patience.”
McDonald’s plans to open over 1,000 restaurants across the UK and Ireland this week, for either drive through or delivery services.