CEOs and political commentary rarely go well — when outgoing Whole Foods CEO John Mackie went on a podcast to say that “socialists are taking over” and young people “don’t seem to want to work,” the internet didn’t let him retire without scandal final.
The last person he liked for his comments was McDonald’s (MCD) CEO Chris Kempinski. During a conference at the Economic Club of Chicago, Kempzinski drew attention to the crime issue in the Midwestern city that serves as the headquarters of the Golden Arches.
The city alone has more than 400 restaurants, and Kempczynski told reporters at the event that rising crime made many of them difficult to manage.
Kempinski: “Violent crime in our restaurants”
He said, “We have violent crime happening in our restaurants… We see homelessness problems in our restaurants. We have drug overdoses happening in our restaurants. So we see in our restaurants, every day, what is happening in the community as a whole.”
In 2018, McDonald’s moved its headquarters from the suburb of Oak Brook to downtown Chicago. At the time, the company positioned it as a “commitment to the city” – headquartered in the West Loop, an area known for its trendy restaurants.
The overall crime rate is up in Chicago – police tracking data showed a 36% rise in total crime between 2021 and 2022. However, this largely comes from burglaries and auto thefts with shootings down 11% from last year while Homicides decreased 6%. Thefts increased by 70%.
Even small, nonviolent crimes can put fast food workers at risk and create significant corporate responsibilities. EarIier this summer, Starbucks (SBUX) It announced it would close 16 stores in Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. after managers complained about a growing number of assaults and other “challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue to operate.”
Politicians, Executives, and the Chicago Stereotype
At the same time, the “Chicago crime” is often cast as a bogeyman by some Republican lawmakers. While Chicago ranks below many other major cities in terms of violent and mass crime, long-standing stereotypes about city gun violence have become a political mobbing point for arguing that liberals tolerate crime.
The city has been a frequent target of President Donald Trump – he once said the city was “worse than Afghanistan” and accused local Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other liberal politicians of “bringing it to the ground”.
Kempinski had his own scandal involving Lightfoot. In 2021, he publicly apologized after his text message to her was exposed and published – in which he said the father of a seven-year-old was shot dead in a McDonald’s parking lot and a 13-year-old was killed by police. They are the ones who “let these kids down”.
While the scandal eventually died down, Kempinski’s recent comments about how “the city crisis” sparked the same debate about whether more efforts should be made to combat crime as well as the correct ways to do so.
“Wherever I go, I get the same question these days: What’s going on in Chicago?” Kempczynski said. “While hearing this may hurt our civic pride, there is a general sense that our city is in crisis.”