Today 147 restaurants opened across the island, providing hot food and cold drinks in air-conditioned dining rooms. Thirty restaurants can handle payment by credit card and offer internet connections, but continuing communications problems necessitate cash transactions in the remainder. Electricity service has been restored in 13 of the restaurants. The others are running on generators fueled by propane. Roads blocked by debris and fallen power pole lines are a continuing challenge, but the company’s fleet of refrigerated trucks has been able to keep the restaurants resupplied from the distribution center in Catano, across the bay from San Juan. Another ongoing challenge is keeping the trucks fueled with diesel.
In the aftermath of Maria, Burger King has donated more than 15,000 meals to recovery crews and relief organizations, and has sold ham and cheese sandwiches at a discount to the Red Cross. The company also is using its network of restaurants to help people find family and friends cut off by the storm. People can leave notes at a BK restaurant about their status and people they are trying to reach. The notes are published on BK’s Facebook page, which normally has 250,000 followers, as well as in full-page ads in local papers that have resumed publishing. One note received was from a woman who wanted her family to know that she had given birth two days earlier and that she and baby are well. Burger King has offered to host the baby’s first birthday party next year.
Burger King was able to resume business immediately after the hurricane because of its extensive preparation for disaster. Generators were in place at almost all free-standing restaurants, and fuel, water and ingredients for meals were fully stocked. Phone outages were anticipated and 10 satellite phones were placed strategically around the network of restaurants. Refrigerated trucks and drivers were at the chain’s distribution center to resupply restaurants. Alternative suppliers for inventory, fuel and water were lined up to cover gaps in the usual supply chain.
More than 4,000 of the chain’s 5,500 employees have been working hard since the hurricane to operate the restaurants. The company paid all employees for the first week of the recovery, regardless of whether they could get to work.
Caribbean Restaurants, Inc., the exclusive Burger King franchisee in Puerto Rico for 53 years, is a market leader among restaurant franchises on the island. The company was acquired in 2004 by Castle Harlan, the New York private equity firm, and CRI management and Castle Harlan have expanded the company, adding a master franchisee license for Firehouse Subs on the island and in Latin America. The business now includes 175 Burger King restaurants and 12 Firehouse Subs stores in Puerto Rico, plus two Firehouse Subs in Mexico and another operated by a franchisee.
SOURCE Castle Harlan
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