CHICAGO, ILL – McDonald’s said Tuesday it is temporarily closing all of its 850 restaurants in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The fastfood giant said it will continue paying its 62,000 employees in Russia. But in an open letter to employees, McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempckinski said closing those stores is the right thing to do because McDonald’s can’t ignore the “needless human suffering in Ukraine.”
McDonald’s established a presence in Moscow in 1990 as the Soviet Union was opening its economy, and it drew thousands for its burgers and fries. Its closure now carries similar symbolic weight, and could influence other firms.
McDonald’s is among those to take the biggest financial hit. Unlike Starbucks and other fast food companies like KFC and Pizza Hut, whose Russian locations are owned by franchisees, McDonald’s owns 84% of its Russian stores. McDonald’s has also temporarily closed 108 restaurants it owns in Ukraine and continues to pay those employees.
Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut, said late Tuesday it planned to temporarily close 70 company-owned KFC restaurants in Russia. The company said it was also in talks with a franchisee to close all 50 Pizza Hut restaurants in Russia. It had announced Monday that it was donating all of the profits from its 1,050 restaurants in Russia to humanitarian efforts. It has also suspended new restaurant development in the country.
Fast-food chain rival Burger King is currently keeping its Russian stores open. It committed $3 million to support Ukrainian refugees and said people fleeing to European nations could get free Whopper meal vouchers.
The company told the BBC its Russian outlets were operated by franchisees with which it had “long-standing legal agreements” that were not easy to change currently.