Restaurants

McDonald's new CEO takes aim at the company's 'party' culture

Key Points
  • McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski is trying to change the company's culture after taking the reins in November.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that under Kempczinski's predecessor, Steve Easterbrook, the company's culture tolerated late-night socializing between senior managers and rank-and-file employees.
  • More than 1,000 McDonald's have provided feedback via a survey since Kempczinski took the reins.
McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski is trying to restore a more professional culture, starting with feedback from key stakeholders and applying the chain's core values across the system of franchisees, suppliers and employees.

"When I started in this role, my commitment to you was to listen and learn across the System," Kempczinski said in a message to employees obtained by CNBC. "In the past 9 weeks, I have been doing just that."

Kempczinski said three things about McDonald's make him proud: It creates opportunity, builds community and collaborates on solutions.

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McDonald's new CEO attempts to change company's culture

"All of this is underpinned by our core values, which are the bedrock of our company," Kempczinski said. "We must now champion and apply them more evenly across the three-legged stool to be even stronger."

The New Year's message follows a Wall Street Journal report published Sunday that alleged that under Kempczsinki's predecessor, Steve Easterbrook, the company's culture tolerated late-night socializing between senior managers and rank-and-file employees. Easterbrook and McDonald's Chief People Officer David Fairhurst often partied with staffers after work hours, according to the Journal. Previous and current McDonald's employees also told the Journal that Easterbrook allegedly had a reputation for flirting with female employees.

The fast-food giant's board fired Easterbrook in November because he had a consensual relationship with an employee, which violated the company's fraternization policy. Fairhurst departed the company the day after Easterbrook's firing became public knowledge. The Journal said Fairhurst couldn't be reached for comment and a representative for Easterbrook told the newspaper he wasn't available to comment.

After taking over as CEO in mid-November, Kempczinski asked employees for feedback. More than 1,000 McDonald's employees have responded via a survey. In Kempczinski's message Monday, he said he was "impressed by the candid feedback."

Kempczinski has also heard from other stakeholders about McDonald's culture and ethics through meetings with corporate officers, marketing managing directors and the franchise leadership of the chain's International Development Licensed markets. He also held in-person town halls with employees in the United Kingdom and Germany in late December.

Read the full memo below:

Happy New Year, Global McFamily!

I hope everyone had a chance to relax and spend time with family and friends over the holiday season. As we hit the ground running in 2020, I want to congratulate you, the McDonald's System, on a job well done.

I am proud of our success in 2019. Together, we served over 65 million customers, on average, every day, providing great tasting food faster with more convenience and better service than ever before. But we're only just getting started. I firmly believe that McDonald's can change the world in a way that no other company can.

When I started in this role, my commitment to you was to listen and learn across the System. In the past 9 weeks, I have been doing just that. I have been impressed by the candid feedback and now it's my turn to share three things that make me deeply proud of our System:

We create OPPORTUNITY. Our ambition is to offer everyone an opportunity to fulfill their dreams, no matter where they're starting from. If you're willing to work hard, and live our values, McDonald's can change your life.

We build COMMUNITY. While McDonald's is a global brand, we are actually a local business. Families visiting our restaurants aren't just customers, they're neighbors. That sense of community is what makes our System so special.

We collaborate on SOLUTIONS. We recognize our responsibilities as one of the world's leading companies, and we're committed to being part of the solution wherever we can make a difference. Quite simply, we commit to use our Scale for Good.

All of this is underpinned by our core values, which are the bedrock of our company. We must now champion and apply them more evenly across the three-legged stool to be even stronger.

We have some exciting milestones ahead, including Worldwide Convention. In the meantime, you'll continue to see and hear from me across the System. A heartfelt thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

Onward,

Chris K.

P.S. I am excited to share that, starting today, you can follow me on Instagram @chrisk_mcd. I'd love for you to be my first followers.

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