KFC is trying to "contactless" food deliveries in China to alleviate virus fears


One of the largest Chinese restaurant operators is trying to ensure that the potentially deadly corona virus that paralyzes much of the country does not interfere with the important task of delivering pizza and other food.

Yum China, which has nearly 3,000 pizza and KFC restaurants in the second largest economy in the world, has launched a so-called "contactless" delivery to prevent the spread of the virus via food delivery. The fast food company demonstrated its cautious approach with videos on the Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo.

The videos show a delivery person measuring his temperature, applying a face mask and putting on clothes before disinfecting all food packaging and leaving the restaurant. The food courier then places the order at a location agreed with the customer at a distance of at least 2 m from the recipient.

In a video, KFC shows an actor portraying a customer waving to a food courier from a distance after retrieving his food while the delivery man bows.

Yum China's KFC restaurant chain demonstrates a grocery delivery where the courier is at least 3 meters from a customer.

KFC China / Weibo

Yum China said in statements on social media that the new delivery system should provide "peace of mind" to residents.

A collection of images on Pizza Hut's page on Weibo, a Chinese blog site, shows how workers measure their temperatures and are reluctant to deliver.

A collection of images on Pizza Hut's Weibo page shows delivery service people staying behind while customers pick up their pizza.

Pizza Hut / Weibo

"Chinese brands KFC and Pizza Hut have launched a new range of contactless delivery services. They also control online pickup from the contactless service store in select locations in China," Yum China said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

The company added that it is using the new approach to ensure the smooth delivery of food during a "period with significantly reduced food traffic".

"The recent outbreaks of coronaviruses have significantly interrupted our business. The impact is due to the temporary closure of our restaurants and the significant decrease in sales to restaurants that are still open," said Ka Wai Yeung, CFO of Yum China Thursday to discuss the company's latest financial results.

According to Yum, the company closed more than 30% of its nearly 9,000 Chinese-based restaurants, and traffic in the remaining restaurants was less than usual due to government travel restrictions and other precautions.

Pizza Hut, which has a higher proportion of dine-in customers than KFC, is particularly affected, according to Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China. "The dine-in business is still the largest part of the business, so unfortunately the impact on Pizza Hut is heavier than that of KFC," he said in the earnings call.

Corona virus could lead to a decline in Chinese economic growth

"These services have been well received by customers and play an important role in ensuring that our delivery business continues to exist during this period with significantly reduced dine-in traffic," the company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

The virus killed almost 640 people, all but two in China, the others in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Worldwide, more than 31,000 people are infected, the vast majority in China. As of Friday morning, there were 12 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that the virus can spread from person to person if an infected person within half a meter of another coughs or sneezes.