Coronavirus: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern 'concerned' at overcrowding outside Auckland BurgerFuel

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reiterated businesses must fulfill social distancing obligations if operating under alert level 3, after pictures emerged of customers crammed outside a BurgerFuel store in Auckland on Tuesday night.

Photos supplied to Newshub showed masses of people outside BurgerFuel Glenfield on Tuesday night - the first day of alert level 3 - where customers were violating social distancing rules.

Coronavirus: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern 'concerned' at overcrowding outside Auckland BurgerFuel
Photo credit: Supplied

BurgerFuel has announced restaurants throughout New Zealand will now be required to have crowd controllers.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday afternoon, Ardern said she had seen the images in question.

"I asked a couple of questions this morning - particularly of some of the images I've seen of areas and there were a couple of persistent photos that lingered around some places in particular.

"That caused me enough concern. I saw multiple angles of it so it caught the attention of members of the public and that tells me that, by and large, people absolutely know what we need to be doing at level 3 but clearly that wasn't happening in this scenario.

"We have had confirmation, though, from officials this morning that they have been directly in contact I'm told with the head office of that operation, in order to ensure they understand their obligations and that they will manage their ongoing trade from here-on because they certainly didn't fulfill those obligations last night."     

National MP Dan Bidois earlier described the overcrowding as "unacceptable" while others said Kiwis needed to do better.

BurgerFuel, meanwhile, insists that safety is its highest priority.

"Day one of reopening saw our BurgerFuel stores inundated with a stampede of customers, way beyond what we had anticipated," a spokesperson for the franchise said in an emailed statement.

"We are working hard on a number of improvements to ensure the wellbeing of our customers and staff. To name a few: We will be limiting online orders to ensure food production and queues are manageable, all stores are now required to have a crowd controller at the storefront at all times, to reinforce physical distancing and we have also provided additional video training to guide our staff and ensure we are operating in adherence with the Government’s guidelines."

The spokesperson said the franchise was adapting to a "totally new" environment.

"Our staff are navigating many new procedures such as strict hygiene protocols, physical distancing guidelines, and contactless food preparation in our kitchens. This, combined with major volumes of orders following 5 weeks of no operation, resulted in some stores struggling to control crowds at peak collection times."