New McDonald’s CEO Seeks to End Hard-Partying Corporate Culture

Chris Kempczinski has a significant task before him.

McDonald's
The new CEO of McDonald's has his work cut out for him as he seeks to reform a controversial corporate culture.
Raysonho/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / January 7, 2020 7:00 am

McDonald’s may be a ubiquitous presence throughout the United States, but as of late the storied fast food chain has been going through some changes. That’s not just a clever reference to the renovations currently underway at many of restaurant’s locations — new CEO Chris Kempczinski has a task at hand that’s far more strenuous. A new article at The Wall Street Journal explores Kempczinski as he stands on the precipice of something big: working to reform a toxic corporate culture.

That corporate culture has drawn plenty of attention for McDonald’s in recent months — none of it good. In November of 2019, The New York Times covered a sizable lawsuit being brought against both the owner of a franchise in Michigan and the corporation as a whole.

The article’s author, David Yaffe-Bellany, described the plaintiff as “blaming her mistreatment on what she calls a culture of sexual harassment at the fast-food company.”

Kempczinski’s predecessor as CEO, Steve Easterbrook, was fired last November after he admitted to having had a relationship with an employee. The Wall Street Journal‘s Heather Haddon described the denouement of Easterbrook’s time at the company, concluding with a scene of how he “wrote in an email to McDonald’s employees … that he had violated company policy on personal conduct.”

That hasn’t been the only issue that the chain has faced: there’s also been tension with its franchisees over the extent of the renovation program, and questions surrounding the relationship between the corporation, its franchise holders and their employees.

Haddon and and Suzanne Vranica wrote the recent Wall Street Journal about Kempczinski, which notes that one of the areas he’s been tasked with reforming is the corporate culture of the company as a whole. They quote a number of sources who commented that, unlike his predecessor, “Kempczinski, who was previously president of McDonald’s USA, wasn’t part of the executive group that did most of the late-night socializing.”

Also on the agenda for the restaurant chain’s new CEO: working to improve the company’s financial performance and upgrade the technology used even further. It’s a difficult series of tasks to pull off, and an early test of Kempczinski’s leadership mettle.

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