When McDonald’s suspended all operations in Singapore on 19 April, many people were dismayed.
The fast food chain’s absence was unexpected and sorely felt — but it was a necessary move after seven of its staff had tested positive for COVID-19.
Although it was allowed to resume services from 5 May, the firm then voluntarily extended its closure to take extra precautions.
So, for fast food lovers, the agony dragged on.
Yesterday (11 May), McDonald’s finally reopened for business, following an announcement on their Facebook page the day before.
According to the post, most outlets are now operating from 7am to 9pm, while some have remain closed.
Customers Flock Back To The Golden Arches
One thing McDonald’s made sure to emphasise in their message was for customers not to rush, and that staying safe should be the priority.
That said, it didn’t come as a surprise that Singaporeans couldn’t wait to buy their favourite McDonald’s meals again.
News sites like Mothership and MustShareNews reported long queues outside some outlets yesterday morning.
For example, one customer made sure he was an “early bird” visiting the McDonald’s drive-thru at SAFRA Toa Payoh. Even at a time when it was supposedly less crowded, there was still a line of three cars before him.
Some popular outlets like the ones at Bedok Mall and Boon Keng saw heavier crowds, while quieter ones like Kovan were empty.
We also took a drive past an outlet at Sengkang Sports Complex around lunch time, and saw about six cars in the drive-thru lane, plus a few more waiting to enter the carpark.
There were also about 12 people queueing up and waiting to enter McDonald’s, with more customers ordering food inside.
Besides those who walk (or drive) in, many people are also placing orders online now, resulting in large numbers of delivery riders going to McDonald’s to pick up orders as well.
Some customers who tried to order online yesterday were even placed in a virtual queue to control the number of orders coming in.
Based on what we saw, McDonald’s definitely anticipated this crowd and was ready to implement the necessary safe distancing measures.
They have limited the number of patrons that can be inside premises to prevent overcrowding. Others have to wait outside, and a staff is appointed to ensure they keep a distance from each other.
A Peek At How Singaporeans Will Act When Circuit Breaker Ends?
More than just a show of how much Singaporeans love McDonald’s, this display on the first day of its return might be a small glimpse at the bigger picture — how people are going to react when the circuit breaker is lifted.
It has been five weeks since all non-essential businesses closed and we’ve been spending our time largely at home except for buying food and necessities.
It’s likely that, come 1 June, the first thing on many people’s minds will be to do the things and visit the places that they have missed in the past two months.
In fact, this didn’t only happen with McDonald’s. Similarly, when bubble tea stores were instructed to close, people were not ready to part with their favourite sugary pleasure and scrambled to get ‘one last cup’.
Bubble tea stores were flooded with snaking queues on the night before their temporary closure kicked in. Ironically, this seemed to defeat the purpose behind closing them — to reduce the chances of many people gathering in one place.
The same could be seen in supermarkets when shoppers started panic-buying in droves once they heard the news of the circuit breaker, and were worried that they would soon not be able to buy groceries anymore.
Are We Too Urgent For The Things We Miss?
Observing the reopening of McDonald’s reminds us that when people lose access to something, it suddenly becomes more valuable.
During normal times, most people wouldn’t be eating McDonald’s every day. Perhaps it might only cross their minds once in a few weeks.
However, it’s different when we are stripped of the option completely. After going three weeks with no choice, people suddenly have a strong need to get their hands on a burger the very moment it becomes available again.
McDonald’s aside, the circuit breaker will have similar effects on other services and experiences that we temporarily have to live without.
For one, people are longing to dine out so that they can eat in a comfortable environment and enjoy the company of family and friends. Once dining in is allowed, many restaurants, food courts and cafes will probably see full occupancy for awhile.
When retail stores reopen, we can expect higher traffic at malls as shoppers have missed the experience of browsing and buying in person. While ecommerce certainly spiked during this time, it cannot fully replace trying and testing some products physically.
People will also form lines to get hair cuts at salons, some of which are reopening today, and hurry to book fitness classes when gyms are back in business.
Given the chance to meet up outside, many will be excited to finally make plans with friends they haven’t been able to see.
Hopefully, Singaporeans Are Ready To Be Responsible
If everyone decides to rush back outside immediately once the circuit breaker is lifted, this could easily create large crowds, and it may even pose the risk of a second wave of community spread if we’re not careful enough.
But the reaction to McDonald’s reopening yesterday also shows a bit of hope that perhaps mindsets have gradually changed.
Compared to the days of supermarket hoarding when the circuit breaker was first announced, and the mad dash to get one last cup before bubble tea stores closed, I think we can say that Singaporeans fared a bit better this time.
At least, the lines at McDonald’s were not insane — there have surely been worse queues — and they were handled in a very orderly manner.
This might be a small piece of evidence that we have grown more aware of the need for safe distancing, and will be able to balance between meeting our personal desires and still showing responsibility.
And if anything, the excitement to rush back out will probably be strongest in the beginning. Once a sense of normalcy sets in, people will soon realise that they can take their time to visit the malls, restaurants, hair salons and gyms.
Furthermore, businesses will be reopening progressively instead of all at once. And they will also be required to implement safe measures — like McDonald’s has done — before they get the green light to reopen.
So when they do return, they should be well prepared to handle incoming customers with proper safe distancing systems already set up, instead of being overwhelmed and responding retroactively.
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post