Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) announced on Thursday it will offer free food delivery for certain online orders through the end of the month. Beginning this Sunday, restaurants that already offer deliveries will waive delivery fees on orders in excess of $10, accommodating those eaters who may be unwilling or unable to visit a Chipotle location.
The move aligns with similar measures being mulled or already implemented by other restaurant chains as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) revealed on Thursday it was prepared to limit service at some locations to drive-thru only, and said that at those stores it keeps open, it may increase the distance between tables in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading the contagion. Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) announced earlier this week it would offer paid sick leave benefits to its hourly employees, also as a means of combating the spread of COVID-19.
Chipotle did not name the coronavirus as the reason behind its temporary free-delivery offer. But the press release did note that its delivery packaging would feature a seal to ensure the food wasn't tampered with en route. It also pointed out that prior to placing an online order, customers can add special instructions asking drivers to limit their direct contact with them. Both are not-so-subtle hints that the chain is aiming to appeal to consumers concerned about possible COVID-19 exposure.
Businesses in the fast-casual segment of the industry have been holding up better amidst the rising coronavirus threat than higher-end, dine-in restaurants. Across the country, many of those have closed for the time being. Others report being practically empty, as government authorities and medical experts encourage companies and consumers to avoid unnecessary personal contact.