KFC feeling the heat after McDonald’s joins other corporate protests to shutter Russia locations

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Pressure is mounting on KFC to close down its Russian locations after companies including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Pepsi have all suspended their business in protest of the invasion of Ukraine.

KFC has over 1,000 locations throughout Russia and is owned by Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands, which also has 50 Pizza Hut locations in the country.

On Tuesday, one of America’s most enduring and recognizable brands joined the campaign against Vladimir Putin as McDonald’s announced that it was shuttering nearly 850 of the chain’s locations in Russia in a reaction to aggression against its neighbor.

In a letter to employees and franchisees of McDonald’s, CEO Chris Kempczinski announced the closures, saying “our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine.”

“McDonald’s has decided to temporarily close all our restaurants in Russia and pause all operations in the market. We understand the impact this will have on our Russian colleagues and partners, which is why we are prepared to support all three legs of the stool in Ukraine and Russia,” the CEO added.

Kempczinski said that the 62,000 affected employees will continue to be paid during the temporary closures, “This includes salary continuation for all McDonald’s employees in Russia.”

The company has operated in Russia since 1990 when the first location was opened in Moscow on Jan. 31, 1990, mere months after the Berlin Wall fell and took Soviet communism along with it. Since the end of the Cold War, the golden arches have sprung up throughout the country.

(Video: YouTube/CNN Money)

“As we move forward, McDonald’s will continue to assess the situation and determine if any additional measures are required. At this juncture, it’s impossible to predict when we might be able to reopen our restaurants in Russia. We are experiencing disruptions to our supply chain along with other operational impacts. We will also closely monitor the humanitarian situation,” wrote Kempczinski in his letter to employees.

McDonald’s had held out on closing down in Russia but threats of domestic boycotts by leftist social media influencers may have played a role in forcing the company’s hand.

Twitter responded to Mickey D’s announcement.

Also on Tuesday, gourmet coffee chain Starbucks also announced that it was shutting down Russian locations.

In a  message to the company’s “partners,” CEO Kevin Johnson said, “We continue to watch the tragic events unfold and, today, we have decided to suspend all business activity in Russia, including shipment of all Starbucks products. Our licensed partner has agreed to immediately pause store operations and will provide support to the nearly 2,000 partners in Russia who depend on Starbucks for their livelihood.”

In a previous announcement to the company’s employees, Johnson wrote, “While Starbucks does not have cafés in Ukraine, we do have 130 stores in Russia that are wholly owned and operated by a licensed partner. And I want to express deep care for the livelihoods of our 2,000 green apron partners in Russia.”

While not completely shuttering its 1,000 KFC outlets in the country, Yum! Brands that operates KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants announced that it had suspended investment and development in Russia.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

Pressure on any holdouts will be intense as the “public-private partnership” moves to isolate Putin and Russia from the rest of the world over its aggression in Ukraine.


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