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McDonald’s Franchise Owners Alleging Anti-Black Racism Protest in West Loop

Also: plans for a massive golf driving range, restaurant, and bar Drive Shack are canceled in Bucktown

The outside of a business building with windows and the words “McDonald’s.”
Black franchisees allege discrimination on the part of fast food giant McDonald’s.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Groups gathered Monday outside McDonald’s world headquarters in West Loop to protest claims of predatory and discriminatory practices directed toward Black franchisees. It’s the start of a 90-day picketing campaign to challenge allegedly racist tactics, according to the Sun-Times.

The protests come nearly five months after Memphis, Tennessee franchisees James and Darrell Byrd filed a class-action suit against McDonalds. The brothers say the company unjustly shuttered their restaurants after deeming them to be “of no value.” The Byrds allege in their lawsuit that McDonald’s places Black operators in economically underserved communities, thus insuring higher costs for security and insurance. The Byrds say other Black franchisees face similar treatment.

A McDonald’s franchisee for more than 30 years, James Byrd once operated 10 locations, but now has only two. Darrell, once the owner of four locations, now has two after 22 years with the company. White franchisees, the lawsuit claims, aren’t subjected to the same pressures. They point to an alleged $900,000 discrepancy in cash flow, with white owners bringing in $2.9 million annually versus the $2 million seen by Black owners. Plaintiffs have also claims that in the late 1990s there were about 377 Black franchisees across the country, but in 2021, only 186 remain.

The Golden Arches acknowledged the protests in a statement sent to the Sun-Times, saying it “must go further and remain focused on serious action to accelerate meaningful and overdue societal change.”

The Byrds are the latest in a string of plaintiffs to bring suits against McDonald’s alleging anti-Black discrimination: more than a year ago, two former senior executives filed a lawsuit claiming the company demoted or forced out Black leadership and Black franchisees in a “continuing pattern and practice of intentional race discrimination that should outrage everyone.”

In September, 27 Chicago-based franchisees filed a separate class-action suit claiming racism on the part of McDonald’s. The group has since grown to include 80 plaintiffs, according to the Chicago Crusader.

McDonald’s moved in 2018 from suburban Oak Brook to its new headquarters along Randolph Restaurant Row. Many workers remain away from the office during the pandemic, which was one of the reasons Politan Row, the food hall in the same building, elected to hibernate and pause on-premise dining. McDonald’s workers made up a large segment of the hall’s customer base.

And in other news...

— Plans for massive golf driving range, restaurant, and bar Drive Shack are canceled more than a year after the the chain announced plans to open in Bucktown, according to Chicago Golf Report. The brand originally hoped to build a three-story building with outdoor ranges, heated driving bays, 337 parkings pacs, and a riverwalk on the former Vienna Beef factory site. That’s not to be confused with long-awaited mini-golf bar Big Mini Putt Club in Wicker Park, where owners plan to soon announce an opening date.

— The Illinois Restaurant Association has elected a new board chair. Sam Sanchez, the prolific restaurant and bar owner (John Barleycorn’s, Old Crow, Moe’s Cantina) will assume the position as the group’s first Mexican American in that role. Sanchez replaces Greg Schulson the CEO of Burrito Beach and the president and CEO of Lunan Corporation.

— Reservations are open for Chicago Restaurant Week, which takes place from Friday, March 19 to Sunday, April 4. The event, aimed to bring customers to restaurants during the slow winter months, has evolved due to the pandemic, as it will take place later in the year. This year, there are 265 participants offering specials. Check the website for the full list.

— Chicagoans can help support local and independent newsrooms and take the edge off with a new beer, “Don’t Stop the Presses,” from Haymarket Pub & Brewery in West Loop. Proceeds from the dry-hopped lager go to Block Club Chicago, Chicago Reader, and the Daily Line.

Haymarket Pub & Brewery

737 West Randolph Street, , IL 60661 (312) 638-0700 Visit Website

John Barleycorn

149 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654 (773) 348-8899 Visit Website