By Heather Haddon 

McDonald's Corp. says it will require all U.S. customers to wear masks in its stores beginning next month, joining Walmart Inc. and other companies that decided that face coverings are needed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The fast-food restaurant chain joins a growing number of businesses, including Starbucks Corp. and major U.S. airlines in introducing mask requirements that go beyond local safety guidelines.

McDonald's said it would make masks available to customers who don't have them upon entering one of its nearly 14,000 U.S. stores, according to a company letter written by Joe Erlinger, McDonald's U.S. president, and Mark Salebra, head of the National Franchisee Leadership Alliance owners association, that was viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

There is widespread scientific and medical consensus that face masks are critical in slowing the virus's spread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wear a face covering in public, especially indoors and when social distancing isn't possible.

McDonald's executives said that nearly 82% of its U.S. restaurants are in states or jurisdictions that now require facial coverings for the public entering inside businesses, but decided to take up the stepped up move to further protect the public.

Customers who refused to wear a mask will have their order expedited and served in a pickup area away from other customers.

"It's important we protect the safety of all employees and customers," they wrote.

Many businesses, including Costco Corp., Apple Inc. and Kroger Co., have already adopted mandatory mask rules for their customers, as well as longstanding requirements that their employees also wear masks. Some businesses have taken it upon themselves to set their own masks requirements amid differing rules across states about wearing face coverings in public. Workers have been on the front lines of implementing mask requirements at times when customers have resisted.

U.S. airlines began requiring customers to wear masks in May, and over the last month airlines have tried to step up enforcement, pledging to ban passengers who refuse to comply at least until the pandemic passes.

Messrs. Erlinger and Salebra said that McDonald's staff will be trained on how to deal with customers who may refuse to wear a mask.

McDonald's also said Friday that it won't reopen any more U.S. dining rooms for limited indoor service for another month. The company said earlier this month that it would pause reopenings for three weeks given the virus's ongoing spread. Chain operators have generally supported the decision, as it has made their operations simpler as they focus on drive-through and to-go sales. McDonald's said it is making divider panels available to restaurant owners to try to help with social distancing in kitchens and ordering areas.

Write to Heather Haddon at heather.haddon@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 24, 2020 13:18 ET (17:18 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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