Yum's KFC closes dining rooms at company-owned restaurants in Florida

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The fried chicken chain KFC has closed dining rooms in corporate-owned stores in Florida because of the escalation in coronavirus cases in the state, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) logo is pictured in North Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The letter, from KFC U.S. Chief Operating Officer Monica Rothgery to franchisees on Monday, said its own Florida restaurants would operate only drive-thru and suggested owner-operators consider doing the same in “hot spots” where new cases are surging, including Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.

“This guidance is part of our continued efforts to prioritize the health of our team members, customers, and the communities where they live and work,” the company said in a statement.

KFC, a unit of Yum! Brands YUM.N, has 40 company stores in Florida. It said only about 5% of KFC's U.S. restaurants have opened dine-in seating.

Florida recorded more than 12,600 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its second-highest daily total since the outbreak began, coinciding with the state’s attempt to revive tourism and attract visitors to the recently reopened Disney World.

With restaurants among the hardest-hit sectors economically, some independent restaurants and smaller chains have sought to reopen dining rooms as quickly as allowed, with extra safety measures in place.

But fast food giants have not been in such a rush because their drive-thru sales have mostly made up for lost walk-in business during the pandemic.

Customer transactions at major quick-service chains were 9% lower in the week ended July 5 compared with the same period the previous year. That is an improvement over the 13% year-over-year drop from the prior week, data provider the NPD Group Inc said on Monday.

By contrast, full-service sit-down restaurants still had 30% fewer transactions than the previous year, NPD found.

Earlier this month, McDonald's Corp MCD.N delayed reopening dining rooms as states enacted new restrictions, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown