TORONTO — Restaurant Brands International Inc. (RBI) has about $2.5 billion cash on hand that may be used to help support its employees, restaurant owners and communities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, José Cil, chief executive officer, said in a March 30 letter.

“I want to start by emphasizing how exceptionally proud I am of all our teams that have been working around the clock to support our guests, our restaurant owners and our team members,” he said. “While the entire world is reeling from this unprecedented crisis, you should know that we are well-positioned to weather this storm, continue supporting our thousands of restaurant owners around the world and be there for our guests as they need us.”

Toronto-based RBI, which owns Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons, ended 2019 with about $1.5 billion in cash.

“We have further fortified our balance sheet position by proactively drawing down our full $1 billion revolving credit facility out of an abundance of caution,” Cil said. “As a result, we now have approximately $2.5 billion of cash on hand.”

He said all three restaurant brands are focusing on five priorities: supporting the health and well-being of workers, enhancing restaurant hygiene and safety procedures, continuing to serve guests around the world safely and where it makes sense, supporting restaurant owners, and giving back to communities.

RBI is advancing cash payments and rebates to restaurant owners in many markets around the world, including North America where it represents about $70 million of available cash advances.

“We are continuing to look for other payments due to restaurant owners later in the year that can be advanced now,” Cil said. “These initiatives have allowed us to unlock thousands of dollars of immediate liquidity per eligible restaurant.”

RBI temporarily has converted its rent structure to 100% variable rent from a combination of fixed plus variable rent at about 3,700 eligible locations where RBI has property control at Tim Hortons in Canada and Burger King in the United States and Canada. RBI also has deferred rent payments for up to 45 days. RBI has established teams to expedite access to emergency stimulus programs in the United States and Canada.

Other programs will focus on employees.

At Burger King and Popeyes in North America, RBI is providing paid sick leave for up to 14 days to workers in corporate-owned restaurants who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been asked by the restaurant manager or a medical professional to self-isolate.

At Tim Hortons in Canada, RBI has partnered with restaurant owners to establish a C$40 million ($28.2 million) employee support fund to continue paying workers affected by COVID-19 for up to 14 days.

 “In addition, we are paying a special bonus in April to all corporate restaurant team members in North America across our three brands to recognize their tremendous service to our guests and communities during this difficult time,” Cil said.

RBI has implemented social distancing procedures for workers and plans to deploy 15,000 infrared thermometers to all Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes restaurants to confirm that workers are healthy as they arrive for shifts.

RBI is working with government officials to keep restaurants open.

“Given the unique format of quick-service restaurants and the low-touch options offered through our drive-thrus, delivery and mobile order-and-pay/pickup capabilities, we believe we can play a vital role in feeding Americans and Canadians and millions of others around the world as we practice social distancing in an effort to 'flatten the curve,'” Cil said. “We have expanded the availability of home delivery across all three of our restaurant brands, including through our own internal delivery channels on the Burger King and Popeyes apps in the US. In the coming weeks, we will also be rapidly scaling our delivery coverage in Canada for Tim Hortons restaurants through our partners.”

At Tim Hortons, RBI is introducing enhanced mobile pick up functionality on an app. RBI soon plans to launch safe operational procedures at Tim Hortons, Popeyes and Burger King for curbside takeout or front door takeout.

“With this new feature, team members will walk orders out to guests who can't access our drive-thrus, including truck drivers and guests arriving on foot,” Cil said.

All three brands are supporting communities.

Burger King in the United States is offering two free King Jr. kids' meals with the purchase of any adult meal through an app.

“Many guests are struggling, especially those who rely on meals for their children through schools that are currently closed, and we have already donated more than 500,000 meals in the first week of this program to address this critical issue,” Cil said.

Tim Hortons has deployed coffee trucks throughout Canada to offer free coffee and donuts to health care workers and first responders at hospitals, health care centers and COVID-19 test facilities.

People ordering delivery through the Popeyes mobile app may access offers for free delivery and may donate $1 to No Kid Hungry, a charitable organization committed to ending child hunger in America. Donations will be matched by Popeyes for a limited time.

Globally, Burger King has over 18,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries and US territories.

In China, Burger King donated to the Red Cross to support frontline medical staff and has been providing free meal delivery to hospitals and to on-duty police officers. In Italy, Burger King has donated eight tons of food to the Red Cross and donated meals to local hospitals. Burger King restaurants in Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Poland, the Czech Republic, Australia and Malaysia have established programs to support local health professionals.