COVID-19 creates big changes at this McDonald’s in Ajax

McDonald’s customers in Ajax haven’t been able to place their orders inside the restaurant since March 17, 2020, as the company eliminated the option of dining in and using the front counter.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, this has forced every McDonald’s in Ajax to close its doors and only allow people to get their food from the drive thru.

Children are no longer allowed to play in the play area and jobs such as those working on front counter and as a GEL (guest experience leader) are no longer available to staff, says Raahim Syed, 28, the general manager at the McDonald’s located at Westney and Taunton roads for the past seven months.

Raahim Syed, general manager of a McDonald's in Ajax.
Raahim Syed, general manager of a McDonald's in Ajax. Photo credit: Courtesty of Raahim Syed

Hours have been reduced and a lot of employees have been sent home early or have been told to not come into their shifts due to the lack of customers and work that is needed around the restaurant, says Syed.

“I think it’s eyeopening and a little bit scary because it shows you how quickly the world can shut down. It makes you think about how chaotic people get in times like this. When looking at individuals in grocery stores or in public, it is clear to see that nobody looks out for one another or want to help each other. Instead, everyone is for themselves,” says Syed.

Closing its doors to the public has had a huge impact on sales, he says.

“The biggest thing is that since guests are not coming into the restaurant, we are seeing a massive drop in guest counts and because of that our sales have been affected. We also had to close our dining rooms which has affected our regular day-to-day activities,” says Syed.

Syed says they had to ask a couple of their full-time employees to go on employment insurance.

“If we don’t have the sales to necessarily provide all these people with work, we had to start asking them to either go on employment insurance which Canada made more available. It wasn’t about just a loss of hours, but it was more of a health concern for our crew. A lot of people chose the employment insurance option for the sake of their own health and family.”

With the doors being closed to the public, McDonald’s is now facing new challenges with customers.

“Not all of our guests are trained in drive thru. Not our crew, but we have guests who usually never go through drive thru because they are used to coming inside and ordering food. This is a struggle as we have to now train those people on drive thru on how to come and order food here. There are many customers who come here and try to sit in the drive thru and try to figure out what they want which makes it more difficult and frustrating not only for the crew but also the employees,” says Syed.

Maham Syed, an employee at a McDonald's in Ajax.
Maham Syed, an employee at a McDonald's in Ajax. Photo credit: Courtesy of Maham Syed

Maham Syed, Raahim’s 22-year-old younger sibling, has also worked at McDonald’s for more than three years.

She explained what is like to be working a drive thru shift at McDonald’s.

“Working in the drive thru alone is actually less stressful than having both the front counter and drive thru open. We are being extra cautious though when coming into contact with any customers since we don’t know their history or where they are coming from. Any time we do touch a customer, we wash our hands right away. The employees at the first window where money is being taken are able to wear gloves when handling the money as a safety measurement,” says Syed.

Since the virus has become such a major issue, Maham Syed is always making sure to stay as clean as possible.

“Some of the new challenges I’ve faced are that I have to be more cautious when it comes to cleaning everything. Any time I touch a surface, customer or even door, I am always washing my hands and sanitizing the areas. A challenge is also being aware of all the employees on the floor and not only protecting them, but also making sure their actions aren’t going to harm our customers,” says Syed.