Fast-food giant McDonald’s buys out entire Israel franchise

McDonald’s Corporation has inked a deal to acquire all 225 outlets of its Israel franchise, the American fast-food giant announced. This move comes in response to a significant downturn in sales amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict and subsequent pro-Palestinian boycotts. The restaurant chain’s outlets in Israel have been under the ownership of local licensee Alonyal Limited, controlled by Israeli businessman Omri Padan, for over three decades.

Fast-food giant McDonald’s buys out entire Israel franchise

In a statement released Thursday, McDonald’s confirmed the agreement, stating, “An agreement to sell Alonyal to McDonald’s Corporation has been signed.” It further assured that upon finalization, McDonald’s Corporation would assume ownership of Alonyal Limited’s restaurants and operations, with existing employees retaining their positions under equivalent terms. The financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

McDonald’s faced its first revenue setback in nearly four years in February, attributed to sluggish sales growth in its Middle East division. The company has been grappling with a global consumer boycott, particularly evident in Arab and Muslim-majority nations. This boycott stemmed from perceived support for Israel after the Israeli franchise provided complimentary meals to Israeli soldiers following Hamas-led terror attacks in October.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski acknowledged the impact of the conflict on the company’s operations, particularly in the Middle East and beyond. He lamented the misinformation surrounding McDonald’s alleged stance on the conflict, emphasizing the corporation’s neutrality in funding or supporting any involved governments.

The purchase of the Israel franchise is seen as an effort by McDonald’s to regain control over its brand image, which suffered due to actions by its Israeli franchisee. Monica Marks, a professor of Middle East politics at NYU Abu Dhabi, noted that this move might influence how global brands manage relationships with local franchisees in politically charged environments. The acquisition comes amidst a broader economic downturn for McDonald’s and other Western brands facing boycotts in the region.

The fallout has extended beyond McDonald’s, with Starbucks also experiencing significant revenue declines in the Middle East due to similar boycotts. In the six months since the conflict escalated, McDonald’s outlets across the Arab world have seen a sharp decline in customer traffic, with many stores sitting largely empty. The repercussions have hit local franchisees hard, despite their lack of involvement in the decisions made by the Israeli franchise.

As the acquisition process unfolds, McDonald’s seeks to navigate the complex geopolitical landscape while aiming to rebuild its brand reputation in the Middle East and beyond. The fallout from the Israel-Hamas conflict has been severe, with Palestinian health authorities reporting over 32,000 casualties in the Gaza Strip and warnings of an impending famine from international organizations.