'City is in crisis': McDonald's CEO sounds the alarm over crime in Chicago

The company also announced plans to relocate their innovation center from Romeoville to West Loop

ByDanielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business, CNNWire
Thursday, September 15, 2022
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The company also announced plans to relocate their innovation center from Romeoville to West Loop

CHICAGO -- McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski has big concerns about surging crime in Chicago, where the fast food giant is based, saying it is impacting the company's restaurants and making it harder to recruit corporate talent.

Crime is "seeping into every corner of our city," Kempczinski said during an event at the Economic Club of Chicago Wednesday.

"Everywhere I go, I'm confronted by the same question these days - what's going on in Chicago? While it may wound our civic pride to hear it, there is a general sense out there that our city is in crisis."

Kempczinski said that McDonald's restaurants in the city are suffering, noting that there are about 400 of the chain's locations across Chicago, CNN reported.

"We have violent crime that's happening in our restaurants ... we're seeing homelessness issues in our restaurants. We're having drug overdoses that are happening in our restaurants," he said. "So we see in our restaurants, every single day, what's happening in society at large."

WATCH | McDonald's CEO talks about crime in Chicago, relocating innovation center to West Loop

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

Starbucks, too, has noted similar problems at some of its stores.

Over the summer, the coffee chain announced it would close 16 locations in Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Portland, Oregon over safety concerns.

"After careful consideration, we are closing some stores in locations that have experienced a high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue to operate," a Starbucks spokesperson told CNN Business at the time.

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

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Starbucks employees are "seeing firsthand the challenges facing our communities," Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelsen, senior vice presidents of US operations at Starbucks, wrote in an open letter to employees in July. "With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too.

Kempczinski highlighted another challenge as well.

"For McDonald's, though, the issue isn't just about conditions in stores - it's also about recruiting leaders to the company's headquarters and convincing corporate workers to return to the office," the CEO said.

"It's more difficult today for me to convince a promising McDonald's executive to relocate to Chicago from one of our other offices than it was just a few years ago," he said. "It's more difficult for me to recruit a new employee to McDonald's, to join us in Chicago than it was in the past."

And when it comes to returning to the office, he said, "one of the things that I hear from our employees [is] ... 'I'm not sure it's safe to come downtown.'"

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

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But McDonald's remains committed to Chicago, which was its headquarters from 1955 to 1971, and again starting in 2018. Between 1971 and 2018, the company was based out of Oak Brook, a Chicago suburb.

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

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