McDonald’s chief says anti-Israel boycotts hitting sales

The CEO of McDonald’s, Chris Kempczinski, has said the fast food chain was seeing a “meaningful” hit to business, as customers boycott the firm in the Middle East for its perceived support of Israel.

Mr Kempczinski said calls from pro-Palestinan groups to boycott McDonald’s are based on “misinformation”.

The fast food giant has been targeted by campaigners after posts on social media showed franchised stores in Israel giving free meals to Israeli military forces following the 7 October Hamas attack.

This move sparked grassroots calls for boycotts of the brand by those angered by Israel’s military response in Gaza, prompting owners in Muslim-majority countries such as Kuwait, Malaysia and Pakistan to release statements distancing themselves.

McDonald’s operates a franchising business model, which means it relies on thousands of independent businesses to own and operate most of its more than 40,000 stores globally, with about 5 per cent located in the Middle East.

The company has said it has no position on the conflict and is not responsible for the action of its franchisees, who pay the company a fee to use its brand and recipes.

Mr Kempczinski said in a LinkedIn blog post on Thursday: “Several markets in the Middle East and some outside the region are experiencing a meaningful business impact due to the war and associated misinformation that is affecting brands like McDonald’s.

“This is disheartening and ill-founded. In every country where we operate, including in Muslim countries, McDonald’s is proudly represented by local owner operators who work tirelessly to serve and support their communities while employing thousands of their fellow citizens.”

“Our hearts remain with the communities and families impacted by the war in the Middle East. We abhor violence of any kind and firmly stand against hate speech, and we will always proudly open our doors to everyone,” he added.

The post from the McDonald’s boss comes as tensions over the boycotts have escalated in recent days. The pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which had not formally targeted McDonald’s, this week officially called for a boycott of the brand.

Earlier this week, McDonald’s Malaysia sued the Malaysia BDS group for $1.3m (£1m), claiming “false and defamatory statements” had hurt its business, according to Reuters.

In response, BDS Malaysia said it “categorically denies” defaming the fast-food company.

“We cannot let this pass. Let’s show McDonald’s what grassroots boycotts can do,” the group said in a statement.

Mr Kempczinski is the second boss of a major global business to address the toll sparked by Israel-Gaza war tension. Last month, the Starbucks CEO, Laxman Narasimhan, said the company was the victim of “misrepresentation on social media of what we stand for”.


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