McDonald’s CEO: Franchise produced more Black millionaires than other companies

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski discussed the restaurant chain’s diversity and racial equality initiatives and its impact on the business.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said Tuesday that the fast-food chain has created more Black millionaires than any other company but that it still has room for improvement when it comes to racial diversity.

“Probably, McDonald’s has created more millionaires within the Black community than probably any other corporation on the planet, but there’s still work to do,” Kempczinski said on CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer.”

McDonald’s is one of many companies that have issued statements condemning racism as weeks of nationwide protests sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor rocked corporate America. Floyd and Taylor, both Black Americans, died in the custody of police — Floyd when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes and Taylor when officers entered her home on a no-knock warrant and shot her.

Black customers have historically accounted for about a fifth of the chain’s U.S. revenue.

But in recent months, the fast-food chain has come under fire for alleged unequal treatment of its Black employees and franchisees.

In January, two senior McDonald’s executives, Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal, filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging racial discrimination. The lawsuit claims that the chain fired African American leadership and pushed Black franchisees out. Kempczinski is named as one of the defendants in the suit.

When the lawsuit was filed, McDonald’s said in a statement that it disagreed with the suit’s characterizations but would review the complaint.

A month earlier, in December, Business Insider reported that the number of Black franchisees has been shrinking for years. The average location owned by a Black franchisee nets $68,000 less a month than the McDonald’s overall franchisee average, according to the publication.

The coronavirus pandemic has also resurfaced concerns about fast-food workers’ pay and safety, particularly for the employees on the front lines of restaurants. In May, McDonald’s workers in Chicago filed a lawsuit, saying that the company failed to protect them adequately from Covid-19. Kempczinski said that about 70% of its restaurant-level workers are racially diverse.

Kempczinski said that the company is prioritizing the recruitment of more diverse franchisees and employees. Nearly half of its U.S. corporate officers are people of color.

“I think, for us, diversity is something that has to touch every single aspect of the business,” Kempczinski said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about that in the last couple months with the entire McDonald’s system, and it was really powerful to just hear how committed everyone is to making sure that we stand out in that, and, certainly, that starts with me.”

McDonald’s stock closed up less than 1% on Tuesday after the company reported that its U.S. same-store sales fell just 5.1% in May. Shares of the company, which has a market value of $147 billion, have fallen 3% so far this year.

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