McDonald’s for Christmas? Burger Chain Asks Franchisees to Make It Business As Usual

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A Big Mac probably isn’t your idea of Christmas dinner, but McDonald’s is asking its franchisees to stay open on Christmas Day — a day when even Wal-Mart, which caught flack for opening on Thanksgiving evening this year, closes its doors. 

“Our largest holiday opportunity as a system is Christmas Day,” McDonald’s COO Jim Johannesen wrote in one of two memos that was sent to franchisees and obtained by Advertising Age magazine. “Last year, [company-operated] restaurants that opened on Christmas averaged $5,500 in sales,” he wrote.

Johannesen also said one reason behind the improvement in the chain’s November sales figures was that 6,000 more restaurants were open on Thanksgiving Day (the company has around 14,000 in the U.S.), which boosted sales to the tune of an extra $36 million, Ad Age estimates. The article quotes unnamed company insiders who say that franchisees being open on Thanksgiving accounted for nearly 40% of the chain’s November sales growth.

(MORE: Why We Stopped Buying Fast-Food Combo Meals)

Thanksgiving helped reverse a rare drop in McDonald’s sales; in October, the company broke a nine-year streak of improvement and reported a decline of 1.8% in same-store sales.

After the announcement, one analyst told the Wall Street Journal he didn’t have high hopes for a quick turnaround. “My expectation is we’d start to see some improvement by the middle of next year,” he said. The company stumbled because it faced a combination of lukewarm interest in its slimmed-down dollar menu, increased competition from new, high-end products rolled out by Burger King and Wendy’s, and rising food costs.

Being open on the 25th could be a giant Christmas present for the fast-food giant’s investors. But what about the people stuck manning the fryers and the drive-through windows? Spokeswoman Heather Oldani told Ad Age that franchisees could elect to pay more to employees for coming to work on Christmas, but “when our company-owned restaurants are open on the holidays, the staff voluntarily sign up to work. There is no regular overtime pay.”

For its part, McDonald’s says it’s doing this for you. Oldani told Ad Age, “Our restaurants will be open to serve our customers when and how they need over the holidays.” (McDonald’s did not respond to our request for comment.)

(MORE: McRib Fanatics and the Amazing Power of Limited Availability)

The burger chain might need to get its franchisees to open this Christmas to keep Wall Street happy, but it’s doing so at a risky time in big-company labor relations among low-wage workers. Last month, a consortium of community groups in New York City called for a walkout by fast-food workers in protest of minimum and near-minimum wage, sometimes after years of service. A report issued earlier this year by the Food Chain Workers Alliance found that the median wage for fast-food workers is $9.65 an hour, and less than 14% of them makes what the group considers living wages.

Wal-Mart weathered its own share of criticism and protests when it announced plans to kick off Black Friday at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening. A labor-union-backed group marshaled supporters who turned out for dozens of protests around the country, although predictions of a mass walkout didn’t come to fruition.

For Wal-Mart and the various New York City fast-food outlets affected, the events didn’t seem to have a measurable impact on sales; in fact, Wal-Mart sent out a press release saying this year was its best-ever Black Friday, thanks to aggressive pricing and guaranteed availability of hot gift items.

But the collective conversation about low-wage workers toiling away for ten dollars an hour while the rest of us are stuffing our faces with turkey and ham, tearing through gifts, or laying around in elastic-waist pants watching football has moved beyond the activist community and into the mainstream. So far, we still want to have our Big Macs on Thanksgiving and eat them, too. Will Christmas be a holiday too far?

89 comments
JhoneWhite
JhoneWhite

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trynsaave
trynsaave

Are we sure this is on corporate, rather than the individual franchisee? This former McDonald's manager says that franchisees are the ultimate decision makers, and that one he worked at would turn $75K / month in profit -- not hard to see why they'd stay open. It's a cash cow!

AdamSmith1
AdamSmith1

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the_cheebs
the_cheebs

@TIME The investors will be spending time with their families, why can't the employees?! #greedsucks

DebbieK541955
DebbieK541955

@TIME Absolutely not! A hamberger is not my choice for Christmas dinner. More like ham, mash potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole.......

trixywh
trixywh

@wendilynnmakeup the Grove has huge signs up that Umami Burger is going to be open Christmas Eve & Christmas! WTF I'm right there with ya

SpeedyPig629
SpeedyPig629

@RazorHog66 @time this is terrible!!! My kids can wait a day or two to use their McDollar gift coupons

KarlGra
KarlGra

@TIME The worst thing m gonna look for. It's the time to indulge yourself. Look for healthy food.

dustincoleman86
dustincoleman86

@TIME I'm unsubscribing from your feed. Way too many Tweets, many of them repeats.

panzertoysmail
panzertoysmail

Why shouldn't they be able to open on December 25? December 25 is "special" apparently because some people believe in Jesus or something, I've never really looked into it but this is a religious holiday. Separation of Church and McDonalds!

CrashCart9
CrashCart9

“when our company-owned restaurants are open on the holidays, the staff voluntarily sign up to work. There is no regular overtime pay.” Yes, some voluntarily sign up to work, and then when only one or two people do, the rest of the shifts are assigned.  And let's face it, at a minimum wage job they can fire you from for any reason at any time, you aren't really allowed to say no when your boss asks if you'll work.

GregoryA.Peterson
GregoryA.Peterson

yeah, look at all the free lip service wal-mart got with it's attitude toward Thanksgiving, it would appear Micky D's is attempting to cash in on some free publicity, these companies have no pride, it's ALL about a buck to them...

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

McD's is not forcing anyone to go there on Xmas or any other day.  They also cannot force people to work for them.  Not everyone has family and friends to spend christmas or any day with.  There are those, myself included, who would appreciate ONE place being open on xmas and other holidays.  As for everyone stuffing their face, wearing elastic band clothing and watching football and other inane things referred to in this article......go ahead and do that.  nobody cares, just don't force everyone else to think and behave as you do.

TyVulpine
TyVulpine

It's all about the $$$ and not a thought about letting the employees spend CHRISTMAS with their families.

compsystemsinc
compsystemsinc

I have to work that day unfortunately :(. My only problem about working that day is that they're pushing us workers to work with no overtime paid; yet corporate level, supervisors ect... get paid holiday and won't even be working that day. What sucks more is that no one is sticking up for us workers. Not only that, next year starting 2013 they're cutting us all workers back to 20 hours a week nothing more due to a bill that passed by Obama, I guess it states something like if we work more than 30-32 hours the owner has to provide insurance for us and that sucks. I don't care if I don't have insurance but I have school to pay out of my pocket, bills, rent, car payment, car insurance. And how are we supposed to be able to move forward with all that change, and we don't even get appreciated. :/ It sucks but work is work I guess Ill just have to find a second job & try to get school squeezed in somehow to try and make ends meet.

RichBraden
RichBraden

Yes, you can make money by staying open on the biggest holiday of the year. It says a lot about our values as a society that large companies like McD are allowed to do this and thereby encourage families NOT to spend the day together. Unlucky employees are often required to work the holiday and I admit that some even look forward to extra pay which some companies offer. You would think that businesses could back off for at least one day a year and encourage people to enjoy a holiday and free time with their families and friends. Life is too short and we need to put more value on time spent with people we love.

psychandtheology
psychandtheology

People need to realize that simply not liking and complaining about a company policy isn't going to accomplish much of anything. People need to speak using the only language that big businesses understand - their money. If you don't like a company policy, find a more deserving business to support. And consider small businesses, especially.

TomHalleck
TomHalleck

10's of thousands of other workers; service stations, convenience stores, health care, airline, and other transportation companies, ALL will be working, not to mention armed forces personnel. It aint the end of the world.

anon9999999999999
anon9999999999999

Yeah, right.  And pretty soon, "volunteer" will become "forced" when the corporations decide that they *must* have those profits.  Don't work on Christmas?  You get fired.

This is what happens when you let bad companies persist.  McDonalds executives should be put under citizens arrest for failure to play fair in the community, hauled to jail, and their business re-organized from the ground up.

RonaldCarbone
RonaldCarbone

@josephkerry McDonald's has been headed this way for years. What happened to respecting your people?

BillBaker1
BillBaker1

Sam Walton, family man, would be rolling over in his grave.

zaglossus
zaglossus

A sign that there are a lot more lonely people without families today that have no place to go on Xmas but to Macdonald's.

MarkRanzenberger
MarkRanzenberger

If you have to travel by road on Christmas Day, it's horrible. No food. No services. Just try to find a bathroom, let alone a meal. And most of the hourly workers I know would be grateful for the additional hours, as opposed to unpaid time off. 

C_Anderson705
C_Anderson705

@TIME @timebusiness Ill be boycotting. #BoycottMcdonaldsChristmas

C_Anderson705
C_Anderson705

@TIME @timebusiness how about tell the people that makes the decisions to come and run the franchise's! Lets see how that works.

C_Anderson705
C_Anderson705

@TIME @timebusiness they can't be serious!!! What about your employees family's that cannot spent Christmas together?? Family>profit

DonO.Smith
DonO.Smith

I didn't know that they are that hard up for money! that they would make their workers work on a day they should have off. Shame on you McDonalds!

MongooseMaelstrom
MongooseMaelstrom

What a disgusting, greed driven policy from the corporate overlords who will enjoy the holiday off with their families.  The money McDonalds makes on Christmas day will be lost in the long run from those who continue not to eat there as they lose quality employees and thus lose quality product.  Not to mention those who will boycott them for this greedy, selfish practice. 

iOSForLife
iOSForLife

@TIME @timebusiness It will be interesting to see who eats at McDonald's on Christmas Day..

RazorHog66
RazorHog66

@SpeedyPig629 Pretty sad. Not even getting overtime pay.

KarlGra
KarlGra

@dustincoleman86 @TIME Don't do it! -- I analyse that they repeat for others at other time that may be sleeping or working.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

@compsystemsinc hey man, life is unfair or did you not get that bulletin?  corporate level and supervisors get paid leave because they are your bosses.  sure it would be nice if the boss drove around in a piece of junk and lived in some one room dive on the wrong side of the tracks while you and yours lived the good life.  but that's not how life works.  maybe you should strive to become one of them or just leave the company, nobody forces you to stay there.  i have never been on one vacation in my life;  you know where you go to some nice place and stay in a hotel and relax and have fun.  never happened, but i don't complain about it.  for that matter, i don't recall spending one dollar in many, many years or virtually ever on something other than food or housing, though i did recently buy my first tv since 1980s.  life is unfair, man, no use whining about it.  some peeps are born into lucky circumstances, and others lives suck bad.  why is someone born to queen elizabeth while someone else is born into abject poverty in ethiopia and dies of starvation three days later?  it's cuz life is completely random, there is no rhyme or reason to it.  why were thousands of black kids tortured during slavery but obama's daughters play on the white house playground?  because life is random, and we can't control, to some extent, our lives and circumstances.  i still hope you get xmas off but if you can't, just understand there is a lot worse in this world.  heck, you were allowed to live past the first grade unlike two dozen innocent little tots last week.  their families christmas and lives will be burdened with the worst and deepest pain for as long as they live.

cynik21
cynik21

@MongooseMaelstrom as long as there enough employees who volunteer to work the holidays, the 'corporate overlords' will continue to win out.

nomohyp
nomohyp

@ChikuMisra @compsystemsinc totally. If you are part of the working poor or working class and subject to poor treatment, ITS YOUR FAULT. Assimilate and just work harder at your crappy, low-paid job and then you will become part of the elite! That is if you already have plenty of money saved, time for school or more school (though, not at all a guarantee for success and/or $), connections to people who can do you favors that help you climb the latter, and are white-preferrably male (cuz white women still only earn 77 cents for every male dollar earned- for women of color its 56-68 cents per dollar, so being anything but white is pretty much a curse), and are preferably heterosexual (or at least in the closet about it.)

YAY capitalism :)  Freedom Fries! Bootstraps! 

MarkRanzenberger
MarkRanzenberger

@NaveedXVO @MarkRanzenberger The one minimum-wage job I've held - and yes, it was for McDonald's - did not extend over the holiday. But I've worked numerous Christmases, and plan to be up at 4 a.m. on Christmas Day again this year to serve my customers. The customers are grateful for the service, and they shouldn't be disappointed. And no, I won't get any extra compensation.

NaveedXVO
NaveedXVO

@cynik21 

If by volunteer you mean are forced to decide between working on Christmas or losing your job for Christmas. Then ya they're volunteering.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

@BrianPorter @ChikuMisra @compsystemsinc   Brian, I checked out your comments history, and all you do is slam people with one-liners, no doubt because that's all your little pea-brain can manage.  To those who would accuse me of same, understand I am just replying to his baseless insults which don't even attempt to explain or rationalize anything, which I at least try to do.