Moves to reopen McDonald's stores for walk-in customers could help stabilise beef markets as the hospitality sector shutdown shows no sign of reversing.

The firm is one of the biggest buyers of local beef in the UK and Ireland, with many other input ingredients also sourced locally.

Ronald and Co. will hardly expect the same queues seen when drive-thru orders recommenced. But for some urban locations, it could mean the reopening of a store which has been closed for months and more Big Mac sales will inevitably lead to more meat purchases.

McDonald's sales

Globally, McDonald's' sales fell by 7.7% over the last year reflecting extended periods where many stores were closed around the world according to the firm's latest trading statement.

Comparable sales in the fourth quarter fell in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain while Australia and the UK and Ireland bucked the trend, seeing an uplift.

It's good news for local producers as McDonald's purchases a whopping 40,000t of Irish beef each year.

McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “A month ago we made the voluntary decision to temporarily close our walk-in takeaway while we reviewed our safety measures to ensure they reflect the evolving nature of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Working closely with third party safety expert NSF International, we identified a small number of changes to further enhance our procedures, and we are currently in the process of rolling these out to restaurants.

This week, a small number of our restaurants will trial reopening walk-in Takeaway with these enhancements in place, with the plan to reopen the majority of restaurants for walk-in Takeaway across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland from Monday, February 22.

"Due to government restrictions, we are unable to reopen takeaway in Scotland at this time.

“New safety measures being introduced include visors as well as face coverings for customer-facing employees, revised guidance and processes for our couriers to support their safe working and enhanced processes for managing customer and courier flow in restaurants.

“Once again, we would like to thank our franchisees, managers and employees for their ongoing commitment in supporting and implementing all of our updated procedures.

"The well-being of our people, as well as our suppliers, couriers and our customers, remains our top priority, and we are confident the new processes in place will further enhance our already robust safety measures.”

Ian Stevenson, chief executive of the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland, said: "McDonald’s is a very important customer for both the UK and Irish beef industry and our processing sector in Northern Ireland has long served the McDonald’s supply chain with quality assured beef.

"McDonald’s is one of the world’s leading voices in promoting and driving sustainability within the global beef industry and the business is an important customer for forequarter and flank cuts of beef which are used to make the burger patties.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been hugely disruptive to meat markets since it swept across the world in the first quarter of 2020 - particularly within the foodservice and catering sector, where many outlets remain closed to customers.

"Drive-thru and delivery services have proven very popular with consumers and the decision by McDonald’s to safely resume walk-in takeaway at the majority of its restaurants across England, Wales and Northern Ireland is a welcome move and one which our industry will no doubt step up to service if it results in additional demand for beef within McDonald’s outlets."

Research carried out by the fast-food chain during lockdown found public appreciation for locally-sourced food has increased since the introduction of Covid-19 restrictions in Ireland.

59% of respondents said their appreciation for their local area has increased since the start of the pandemic, while just 6% said they appreciate their local area less, the research.

The survey of 1,000 adults in Ireland also found that people now care more about where their food is sourced.

When eating at restaurants or getting a takeaway, 57% of people said they now have a greater appreciation for food that is sourced locally, with 54% of respondents reporting that they now care more about the quality of food in their meals.

Eggs (80%) and beef (76%) were the two ingredients that people most wanted restaurants to source from local suppliers.