Chatham chains in COVID-19, Part 3

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/24/20

As COVID-19 continues on, my tracking of how chain stores and restaurants continues on. This week, it’s fast food restaurants, and you’re likely to find, like me, that things are pretty much the …

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Chatham chains in COVID-19, Part 3

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As COVID-19 continues on, my tracking of how chain stores and restaurants continues on. This week, it’s fast food restaurants, and you’re likely to find, like me, that things are pretty much the same across the board.

These are not meant to be exhaustive looks at each chain, but simply observations from five popular ones within Chatham County.


Way back on March 10, America’s favorite restaurant chain announced it was putting a Little Mac and a Double Big Mac on the menu. Now, McDonald’s “three-legged stool — owner/operators, suppliers and the company” — is focusing on giving back. An April 9 press release stated that the company had donated 3.1 million dollars worth of food — which equates to “nearly 3 million total pounds of food across dairy, beef, produce, fruit and bakery items” — to charities and food banks across the country.

The chain has locations in Siler City, Pittsboro and northeast Chatham.

Burger King

In its COVID-19 response, Burger King says it’s working with its competitors.

“We are talking to other restaurant chains around the world to understand what they are doing,” the chain’s website states. “We are the most competitive burger brand on the planet. But there are times to turn down the grill and make sure as a restaurant industry that we are learning from each other.”

I’m going to start using “time to turn down the grill” from now on when I’m trying to de-escalate a conflict, because that’s an amazing analogy. If you swing by the Burger King restaurants in northeast Chatham or Siler City and use it, please tell me.


Based in Southern Pines — which I did not know before writing this column — Smithfield and its stores are “open for lunch and dinner as normal late night hours may be restricted in some locations,” according to the chain’s website. The company’s Facebook page ( has been populated with photos from local events utilizing Smithfield’s food. An April 14 post showed a photo from a ribbon-cutting in Clayton where the ribbon cutters practiced social distancing, and a March 27 post showed the chain’s New Bern store prepping meals for the Craven County Jail. Smithfield’s has a location in the Walmart shopping center in Siler City.


Wendy’s was in the midst of rolling out its “America’s Favorite Breakfast” when COVID-19 struck. Although I haven’t eaten it yet, I’m about 99 percent sure that, as of now, that campaign is not working — at least until they perfect the cinnamon roll the way Cinnabon has.

The company announced on April 1 it started “Restaurant Recognition Pay” — with “hourly crew members, shift managers and assistant General Managers in Company restaurants...receiv(ing) a 10 percent increase in hourly pay over the next five weeks.” Wendy’s has a store at the Walmart Shopping Center in Siler City.

“Wendy’s is a people business, and the spirit of our Wendy’s people remains strong during this challenging time,” President/CEO Todd Penegor wrote in a post on the company’s website. “Our restaurants are essential to feeding our communities, and we could not do this without great leadership and support from our dedicated General Managers and restaurant teams who are on the frontlines.”


A quick search of the company’s website shows it has not been as vocal as its fast food brethren, but the chain said it has been doing what many have — improving cleaning procedures and moving to drive-thru and to-go service only. Hardee’s, which has a location in downtown Pittsboro, also offered free delivery through the UBER Eats and Doordash apps in the second half of March.

“As always, we aim to continue providing the highest quality experience while serving our community in the safest way possible,” CEO Ned Lyerly said in a March 17 post. “We sincerely appreciate your understanding as we continue to make the necessary changes to navigate these circumstances.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.


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