Food

Covid-19: Early fast food queues as Auckland moves to alert level 3

RICKY WILSON/STUFF

Queues form at a West Auckland McDonalds after alert level 3 move

Auckland woke up under alert level 3 restrictions to the promise of hash browns, takeaway coffee and buckets of chicken, as fast food outlets around the city geared up to cater to a hungry crowd.

Fast food queues first began when some takeaways started serving at midnight, and then began building again when many more opened for business later on Wednesday morning.

A worker from KFC in Manukau described “six or seven” cars already lining up by 7.30am, with one customer who had been there since 8pm the night before – sleeping in his car.

By 7am Wednesday morning the frantic fast-food traffic had died down in some areas, with little activity noted at McDonald’s in Greenlane.

Ryan Anderson/Stuff

By 7am Wednesday morning the frantic fast-food traffic had died down in some areas, with little activity noted at McDonald’s in Greenlane.

“We expect to be very, very busy” beamed the worker, who said they would open “when they are ready”.

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By 7am, a staff worker at a West Auckland McDonald’s described “a steady stream” of cars travelling through, while a Stuff visual journalist at the McDonald’s in Greenlane reported much of the same.

Staff had set up traffic management at a McDonald’s in Māngere, south Auckland, but queues remained minimal by late morning.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Staff had set up traffic management at a McDonald’s in Māngere, south Auckland, but queues remained minimal by late morning.

By late morning staff at a McDonald’s in Māngere, south Auckland, had set up traffic management to direct the expected rush, but queues remained minimal.

However, as lunchtime neared, McDonald’s outlets in the west Auckland suburbs played host to increasing traffic, with cars at the McDonald’s in Penrose and Henderson leading to delays in the area.

Meanwhile, those who had been surviving on homemade caffeinated beverages welcomed the opening of cafés with open arms, forming queues outside their local hotspots for a barista-made coffee.

Small queues had formed by late morning, a stark contrast to the previous night’s madness.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Small queues had formed by late morning, a stark contrast to the previous night’s madness.

Richard Bagnall, co-owner of Ponsonby bar Longroom and adjoining café Longshot, said his establishment had “probably done a couple of hundred coffees” by 8.30am.

Bagnall said he counts himself lucky to own a café during these times, out of which he’ll be running cabinet food and takeaway coffee, but that the reality for those in hospitality is “still grim”.

Even with the selling of takeaway beverages and cabinet food, the business is still only operating at “seven per cent of its normal revenue”, he said.

Queues at Mcdonald’s in Henderson and Penrose caused traffic and delays around lunchtime on the first day of alert level 3.

AA Traffic/Supplied

Queues at Mcdonald’s in Henderson and Penrose caused traffic and delays around lunchtime on the first day of alert level 3.

The slow pace at fast food restaurants this morning provided a stark contrast to frantic scenes that were seen at the likes of KFC and McDonald’s last night as the doors officially opened after four long weeks of closure, and cars thronged drive-throughs in all four corners of the city.

About 40 cars had lined up outside a West Auckland McDonald’s drive-thru at 12.30am when it opened. By 1am there was a queue of cars down the road and around the corner.

Erick Sia, the owner of Homecooked Filipino Cuisine, said he had to turn away advance orders to balance his incoming orders from Ubereats, Menulog and walk-ins.

Ponsonby Rd is full of people waiting outside cafes to get their contactless coffee.

Ryan Anderson/Stuff

Ponsonby Rd is full of people waiting outside cafes to get their contactless coffee.

Despite seeing 60 per cent fewer customers than he would at level 1, Sia said his phone kept ringing which is “unusual”.

“On my previous level 3 lockdowns, 90 percent of my orders are from Ubereats,” he said.

That was good for the restaurant as Uber took a cut, he said.

“Every time the phone rings, every time the Uber rings, every time I see an email, a text from my office, every time I hear the printer print, I feel hopeful.”

Erick Sia, owner of Homecooked, has had to turn away advance orders to balance other incoming orders from Ubereats, Menulog and walk-ins.

Erick Sia/Supplied

Erick Sia, owner of Homecooked, has had to turn away advance orders to balance other incoming orders from Ubereats, Menulog and walk-ins.

1000 per cent increase in orders

Delivereasy meanwhile reported a 1000-1100 per cent increase in orders compared to the Wednesday before lockdown began.

Director Nick Foster said things had been “hot out the gates” and through the day there would be more than 300 drivers active in the region.

“One great aspect of level 3 for us is the ability for drivers to get through more orders per hour with less traffic on the road and restaurants focused on takeaway or delivery orders.”

Aucklanders seemed to have missed burgers above all else, with four of the five most popular outlets being McDonald’s, Burger Burger, Tiger Burger and ReBurger.

About 40 cars were lined up outside a West Auckland McDonald's drive-thru at 12.30am when it opened.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

About 40 cars were lined up outside a West Auckland McDonald’s drive-thru at 12.30am when it opened.

Little Bird Eatery rounded out the top five, coming in fourth.

Stuff’s visual journalists Ricky Wilson and David White had been out and about during nightfall, meeting those Aucklanders salivating for their first bite of a burger and desperate to tuck into some fish and chips.

Tipene’s takeaways in Morningside also opened at midnight for about two hours.

Caleb stayed up till midnight to enjoy fish and chips in Tipene's takeaways in Morningside after it opened at midnight for 2 hours.

DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Caleb stayed up till midnight to enjoy fish and chips in Tipene’s takeaways in Morningside after it opened at midnight for 2 hours.

The Butter Chicken Factory on Karangahape Rd also opened at midnight, and after 59 orders had to shut down its Uber Eats store because it had run out of ingredients.

It’s not the first time takeaway joints have experienced the rush for fast food, with the rest of the country providing a dry run when it opened up at the start of September.

At the time, demand for fast food was huge, with some waiting in lines for hours as traffic banked up behind them. At one point, Christchurch City Council’s transport operations centre sent traffic management “to help the situation” at one of the city’s McDonald’s restaurants.

By 1am the queue of cars outside a West Auckland McDonald's drive-thru snaked down the road and around the corner.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

By 1am the queue of cars outside a West Auckland McDonald’s drive-thru snaked down the road and around the corner.

And, with Auckland’s drought lasting an extra three weeks, the response from its inhabitants was expected to be ravenous.

Some drive-through outlets were expected to be so busy that an Auckland councillor suggested health authorities set up vaccination centres at some of the restaurants.

While many of the restaurants were prepared for a shift in alert level, some, like KFC and McDonald’s, said they would not be offering full menus because of the short notice about opening up.

But for the tech-savvy, there might be a way around the lines with the team behind the Time in the Line website setting up a mechanism to time the lines at local McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King outlets.

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