McDonald’s CEO sounds the alarm about Chicago crime

New York
CNN business

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski is deeply concerned about rising crime in Chicago, home to the fast-food giant, saying it’s affecting the company’s restaurants and making it harder to hire corporate talent.

Crime is “infiltrating every corner of our city,” Kempczinski said Wednesday at an event at the Economic Club of Chicago.

“Everywhere I go, I’m faced with the same question these days: What’s going on in Chicago? While it may hurt our civic pride to hear this, there is a general feeling that our city is in crisis.’

Kempczinski said McDonald’s ( MCD ) restaurants in the city are suffering, noting that the chain has about 400 locations in Chicago.

“We have violent crime happening in our restaurants … we’re seeing homelessness issues in our restaurants. We’re seeing drug overdoses happening in our restaurants,” he said. “So we see every day in our restaurants what’s happening in society at large.”

The Chicago Mayor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kempczinski’s remarks.

Starbucks ( SBUX ) has also noticed similar problems at some of its stores.

Over the summer, the coffee chain announced it would close locations in Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Portland, Oregon due to safety concerns.

“After careful consideration, we are closing some stores in locations that have experienced challenging events where it is unsafe to continue operating,” a Starbucks spokesperson told CNN Business at the time.

Like Kempczinski, Starbucks leaders said national and community dynamics tend to play out in their stores.

Starbucks employees are “seeing firsthand the challenges facing our communities,” Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelsen, senior vice presidents of Starbucks’ U.S. operations, wrote in an open letter to employees in July. “With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can sometimes be present in our stores as well.

Kempczinski also highlighted another challenge.

“For McDonald’s, however, the problem is not about the conditions in the stores, it’s about recruiting leaders for the company’s headquarters, it’s also about convincing employees to come back to the office,” said the CEO.

“It’s harder for me today to convince a promising McDonald’s executive from another office to move to Chicago than it was a few years ago,” he said. “It’s harder for me to hire a new McDonald’s employee to join us in Chicago than it has been in the past.”

And when he got back to the office, he said, “One of the things I hear from our employees is [is] … ‘I’m not sure it’s safe to come downtown’”.

Kempczinski pointed to several high-profile company departures from the city, including Boeing, Caterpillar and Citadel, all of which recently announced plans to relocate their headquarters. He said mayors and governors in other cities and states have reached out to McDonald’s to consider doing the same.

But McDonald’s remains committed to Chicago, where it was headquartered from 1955 to 1971, and again starting in 2018. Between 1971 and 2018, the company was located in Oak Brook, a suburb of Chicago.

McDonald’s announced Wednesday plans to open a new innovation facility at its Chicago headquarters, relocating employees from its current innovation center in Romeoville, Illinois.