McDonald’s is back! Baby steps – give or take some Perspex screens – towards a type of normality

‘Imagine: a burger picked up from a stranger and scoffed in your car. Maybe soon (dare to dream), you’ll actually walk towards those magical golden arches yourself’

As I described a warm pain au chocolat to my mother over the phone, I knew deep down that she’d probably never see London again. Like millions of others of her age and level of risk – 80s, lung problems – she is now scared to leave the house. The government’s campaign was a soaraway hit: 55 days of public announcements, playing every 10 minutes during ad breaks, have convinced her and millions of others to stay indoors unless their trip is vital. And eating pastries in public is never vital, no matter how you square it, even if they are so fragrant and fresh.

As I talked her through the pleasing whiff of chocolate seeping from the window of a just-reopened coffee kiosk in east London, the passable standard of its takeaway americano and the joy of a waggy-tailed spaniel cross called Townsend whom I met proudly carrying his tennis ball home, I realised that in the new world perhaps one of my scant actual skills will come in useful: my powers of description. Perhaps from now on, and for many years to come, my restaurant column will be largely taken up explaining what it’s like outside the front door to folk who are far too terrified to leave home.

Before Covid-19, my job was to put on shoes and pants and leave the sofa so you didn’t have to. I did not write reviews to charm chefs or captivate earnest food scene types; I wrote them for an imaginary reader called Tricia to read on the loo each Saturday while hiding from her own kids. Tricia went out much more before life happened – the babies, the budget, the tiredness; now she could live vicariously through the writing of a wastrel who was contractually obliged to go out and smile patiently at 11 courses of textures, emulsion and foam.

But as lockdown loosens, perhaps my job, which is certainly ridiculous, might actually take on some poignancy. Britain feels divided into those who are ready for freedom and raring to forget Covid-19, and those who will never forget. The latter will not be rushing down Wagamama any time in 2020. They won’t do communal tables, touch the flappy menu or use the wine glasses. They won’t split a portion of gyoza with potentially Covid-drenched friends when they can Deliveroo them instead and eat them alone.

As faint green shoots appear in the restaurant world, I wonder which side everyone I love will be choosing. Don’t get too excited, these are the smallest of shoots, yet still they’re visible. Marks & Spencer, for example, will soon be doing takeaway food in its restaurants. And next week drive-thru McDonald’s is back! Baby steps – give or take some Perspex screens – towards some type of normality. Imagine: a Big Mac meal and a strawberry milkshake picked up from a stranger in uniform. Scoffed in your car, the burger box on your knee with salty fries balanced inside the lid. And then, maybe soon (dare to dream), the chance to leave your car and actually walk towards those magical golden arches and touch the interactive screen yourself.

How does that make you feel? Joyous? Scared? Angry? Will you be hitting the Hut for the pizza buffet this decade? How about the communal toaster at a Premier Inn? And, some day soon, bigger, flashier restaurant openings; new places specifically designed to provoke Fomo, offering new tastes, new trends, new flavours that will test the rigour of those most determined to stay in.

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Source: theguardian
McDonald’s is back! Baby steps – give or take some Perspex screens – towards a type of normality