McDonald’s is finally getting with the program.
The iconic American fast-food chain said it would temporarily close restaurants and pause operations in Russia in light of the country’s war on Ukraine.
“The conflict in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in Europe has caused unspeakable suffering to innocent people. As a System, we join the world in condemning aggression and violence and praying for peace,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a letter to employees posted online.
McDonald’s has about 847 restaurants in Russia.
With McDonald’s chiming in with action on Russia, it could trigger a cascade of others closing up shop in Russia.
Western fast-food players have expanded significantly into Russia with their cheap burgers and fried chicken over the past 20 years. By Yahoo Finance’s calculations, McDonald’s, Papa John’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King and Starbucks operate about 2,700 restaurants in Russia.
The two largest players are McDonald’s and Yum! Brands’ KFC — with a total of roughly 1,900 locations.
“In Russia, we employ 62,000 people who have poured their heart and soul into our McDonald’s brand to serve their communities. We work with hundreds of local, Russian suppliers and partners who produce the food for our menu and support our brand. And we serve millions of Russian customers each day who count on McDonald’s,” said Kempczinski on a statement. “In the 30-plus years that McDonald’s has operated in Russia, we’ve become an essential part of the 850 communities in which we operate. At the same time, our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine. Years ago, when confronted with his own difficult decision, Fred Turner explained his approach quite simply: ‘Do the right thing.’ That philosophy is enshrined as one of our five guiding values, and there are countless examples over the years of McDonald’s Corporation living up to Fred’s simple ideal. Today, is also one of those days.”
Yum! Brands, also parent company of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, said in a statement: “Like so many across the world, we are shocked and saddened by the tragic events unfolding in Ukraine. Yum! Brands has suspended all investment and restaurant development in Russia while we continue to assess additional options. Yum! will also redirect all profits from operations in Russia to humanitarian efforts. As always, we remain focused on the safety of our people in the region and will continue to act decisively to support our teams in Ukraine.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if Papa John’s, Restaurant Brands and Starbucks stores in Russia would be closed.
“This is a stand-alone business owned and operated by franchisees in Russia. We have long-standing legal agreements that are not easily changeable in the foreseeable future,” a Restaurant Brands spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
Restaurant companies have been calling attention to the Russia risk, however.
“The conflict between Russia and Ukraine could adversely impact economic conditions and demand for dining out as well as result in heightened economic sanctions from the U.S., Canada and other countries in a manner that may adversely affect us and our franchisee’s restaurants located in Russia and Eastern Europe,” Burger King-owner Restaurant Brands said in its latest annual report.
Burger King has more than 800 sites in Russia.
Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.
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