More than 300,000 McDonald's burgers were devoured in the first day of level 3, nearly half of those being Big Macs.

But with the influx comes a warning that uncontrolled queues at burger chains and fast-food outlets - including delivery drivers gathered outside an Auckland McDonald's - risks setting New Zealand back in its Covid fight.

Fast-food restaurants and takeaway stores opened for the first time in five weeks yesterday after the level-4 lockdown ended at 11.59pm on Monday.

Kiwis headed to the Golden Arches in droves, with McDonald's recording double the number of store sales compared to the same day in 2019.

A McDonald's Big Mac hamburger. Photo / Martin Sykes
A McDonald's Big Mac hamburger. Photo / Martin Sykes

The total number of transactions, both at the drive-thru and via McDelivery, totalled 125,000.

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Meanwhile, sales at Domino's indicated Kiwis were most interesting in filling their pizza-cravings with Pepperoni, Hawaiian and Meatlovers pizzas.

But for most of the day yesterday, it seemed the nation had its eyes set on McDonald's.

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In Auckland, 32 cars queued for the Macca's store on Akoranga Drive in Northcote through the car park and back on to the road.

And in Wellington, Kiwis queued from midnight in order to be the first in line at McDonald's Basin Reserve.

A caffeine hit was clearly needed for many and the number of barista-made McCafe coffee sold reflected it, with more than 30,000 snapped up.

Vincent White, Tai Perez, Ioane Toilolo, and Mark Leleifi were third in the queue at McDonald's Mangere yesterday. Photo / Michael Craig
Vincent White, Tai Perez, Ioane Toilolo, and Mark Leleifi were third in the queue at McDonald's Mangere yesterday. Photo / Michael Craig

The busiest burger makers (alphabetically) were Andersons Bay in Dunedin, Frankton in Hamilton, Hastings, Lower Hutt, New Plymouth, Papakura, and Porirua.


A photo sent to the Herald shows 13 men, apparently delivery drivers waiting to collect orders, waiting outside McDonald's in Grey Lynn at 3pm.

Uber Eats delivery drivers wait outside McDonald's in Grey Lynn yesterday. Photo / Supplied
Uber Eats delivery drivers wait outside McDonald's in Grey Lynn yesterday. Photo / Supplied

A spokesman for McDonald's said the Grey Lynn restaurant where delivery drivers were photographed outside the door was "by some margin the biggest restaurant for Uber Eats in the country".

"While we have developed new physical distancing and contactless service procedures, and restaurants had traffic management plans in place, the volume of customers definitely caused some challenges when we reopened on Tuesday," he said.

"At some restaurants we had third party delivery drivers congregating, waiting for orders. We had signage in place and restaurant managers asked drivers to observe social distancing, but in some cases this was ignored.

"We have spoken with our delivery partners and asked them to remind their drivers of distancing protocols, and we have taken additional steps with security and signage at our restaurants.

"We thank everyone for their patience on Tuesday, and expect the initial rush to calm down today. We will continue to review our approach with physical distancing and contactless service as we adapt along with our customers to operating under alert level 3."

It was expected the excitement around heading to McDonald's would calm down in the next few days, managing director Dave Howse said.

The demand, coupled with the pressures of moving to alert level 3 on suppliers, could mean there were shortages of ingredients for menu items.

McDonald's throughout the country started opening from 5am yesterday, with 137 of 170 total open by 10am.

It's been almost 5 weeks, what's two more hours? Crazy queues at McDonald's and KFC restaurants snake out onto the road as they wait to get served on the first day of opening after lockdown. Video / Brett Phibbs / Jordan Perry

Restaurants located in malls or without a drive-thru would remain closed until further alert level changes allowed storefronts to open with direct service.

Other interesting numbers from the first 24 hours of service included:

• 19,000 burgers ordered with no pickles;
• 10,000 Macca's crew returning to work;
• More deliveries to restaurants over next few days to restock and deliver items like shake and sundae mix.

Meanwhile, the majority of Kiwis were interested in Pepperoni, Hawaiian and Meatlovers pizzas, Domino's New Zealand general manager Cameron Toomey said.

"We found out pretty quickly how much New Zealanders missed their pizza. Our teams worked hard getting pizza's out to their local communities with strong first-day sales," Toomey said.

"Yesterday we also sent out some surprise deliveries our essential frontline workers ... Prior to lockdown our local store owners safely delivered approximately 30,000 pizzas to essential workers across the country."

Elsewhere, Burger Fuel has been forced to station crowd controllers outside all its 56 stores nationwide after customers mobbed an Auckland store last night.

Around 30 people were packed together waiting outside the Glenfield-based store for their contactless pick-up - the alarming scenes were caught on camera.

Meanwhile, customer numbers continued to remain high at Countdown stores yesterday despite the move to alert level 3.

But at Foodstuffs stores, which operates New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square, most stores had reported shopping was quieter than normal.

There was nothing solid, but Foodstuffs NZ head of corporate affairs Antoinette Laird said it seemed customers were more relaxed than in alert level 4.

"We're certainly all finding our new rhythm as we continue to focus on keeping customers and our teams safe in the fight against Covid-19," she said.