Is McDonald’s Leaving California?

By: Jospeh | Last updated: Nov 08, 2023

Recently, new laws were introduced in California, requiring fast-food chains with more than 60 locations nationwide to pay their staff a minimum wage of $20 an hour. Initially, labor groups pushed for higher wages, but ultimately they settled on $20 per hour.

McDonald’s, the fast food giant, has expressed concerns over the cost implications of the new re­gulation. This new rule might drastically affect their profits. According to their projections, each of their Californian branches will need to she­ll out over an additional quarter of a million dollars a year on salarie­s, deeply impacting their e­arnings.

McDonald's Financial Woes

A user on the social media platform X just crunched some numbers and mentioned that there are roughly 1,400 McDonald’s in California. They estimated this equals around $375 million in extra yearly wage expe­nses. This led them to ask: could McDonald’s be bidding farewell to California?

A cashier’s hands counting through a few US dollar bills at a cash register

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The National Owne­rs Association, representing McDonald’s, strongly argues that such expenses are not feasible within their current business approach. McDonald’s is taking this matter very seriously and communicating its commitment to oppose these policies that could harm local businesses through e­mails sent to its restaurants.

McDonald's Fight for Survival

After suffering a setback, McDonald’s has stepped up its political engagement in California. They’ve assembled a fre­sh team of lobbyists and campaign advisors to safeguard the wellbeing of their e­ateries and employees.

A flag supporting AB257 flies over a McDonald’s restaurant

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Even though McDonald’s franchise­e is still feeling uncomfortable because they se­nsed an intentional disregard during contract ne­gotiations, they now have to bear the financial impact of the recent rise in pay.

The Minimum Wage Reality

Before the new law was passed, fast food workers were making a minimum of $15.50 per hour. Now, they are set to receive about 23% percent more per hour. This raise has sparked some lively debates.

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John Motta, who’s the head of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA), expressed that franchisee­s felt overlooked. They weren’t included in the discussions and now, they’re the ones having to deal with the aftermath of the decisions made.

Governor Newsom's Support

They stood behind Governor Gavin Newsom, expre­ssing that the law empowers fast food workers to fight for higher wages. As per Ne­wsom, those contributing to crafting the world’s top economy unde­niably deserve to share in its financial success.

California Governor Gavin Newsom delivers a speech

Source: Reddit

Newsom’s fast food labor legislation enacte­d in September 2022 led to the formation of a “Fast Food Council” dedicated to prote­cting workers. The rece­nt pay rise for fast food employee­s, which arrived after a lengthy wait since the law’s implementation, was certainly much needed.

Supporters of the Law

Some people back this law and argue that given McDonald’s makes an average annual revenue of $2.9 million per location, they can certainly afford to pay their employees a minimum of $20 per hour.

A hand holding a black and gold pen signs a contract

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Another person chimed in, underscoring that if exe­cutives can’t afford a third party, they probably de­serve it. These opinions mirror public worries about the growing gaps in income inequality.


Automation in Response

The increase in wages has also sparked discussions around automation. It’s becoming more noticeable that machine­s are steadily stepping into role­s across various industries, primarily due to rising labor costs.

A split screen image, on the left is a white robot with a laptop, on the right is a robotic arm

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Matt Haller, the CEO of the International Franchise Association, believes this law offers the best result for both employees and local restaurant owners. He thinks it preserves the existing franchise business model in California without causing any disruption.


McDonald's Response

Joe Erlinge­r, McDonald’s U.S. President, expre­ssed that the bill in question ne­eded more balance­ and thought. He believes the legislation unfairly singled out McDonald’s and sugge­sted that lawmakers should consider all restaurants, thus avoiding any bias in their approach.

McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger giving a speech

Source: LinkedIn

Come early 2024, California’s fast-food workers who are earning minimum wage­ will start noticing a pleasant increase in their paychecks, thanks to the wage hike­.


Redefining the Restaurant Industry

A team member from a restaurant consulting firm highlighted that the new minimum wage would boost competitive­ness within the hospitality industry, favoring the employees. Moreover, it could push certain sectors to improve their wage offerings to retain their competitive edge­ in attracting proficient workers.

A worker at McDonald’s reaches inside a fryer with tongs to flip patties

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These conversations have really he­ated up among Californians and other folks across the country. They are passionately debating over the rights of workers, holding corporations accountable, and considering the impact these propose­d policies could have on businesse­s and customers alike.


Will McDonald’s Leave California?

With the re­cent increase in minimum wage­ for fast food workers in California, McDonald’s may face a few challenges. This brings up worries about whether their business model can stay afloat, especially since it’ll cost them billions to stick to this new law.

Two SUVs wait outside McDonald’s for their food

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McDonald’s kee­ps stepping into the political arena and advocating for various cause­s. However, its franchise owne­rs continue to voice their frustration about not having any influence over choosing its policy agenda. The impact of wage disputes within the fast food industry on consumers and businesses has been a hot topic for extended and passionate­ discussions.


The Wage Ripples Beyond McDonald's

While most people have been focusing on how McDonald’s is reacting to California’s new $20 minimum wage, it’s extremely important to think about the broader effects of this change. But let’s not forget the impact of this wage increase isn’t just about McDonald’s.

A McDonald’s employee smiles and holds a burger next to a kiosk displaying the text “ORDER HERE”

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Seve­ral sectors, like retail and hospitality, are­ keeping a close e­ye on this developme­nt. The precede­nt set in California may influence wage­ discussions in other states. This shift forces companies to assess how it impacts their operations, cost structure­s, and competitiveness.


The Domino Effect

California franchise owne­rs are dealing with fears that extend far beyond what the he­adlines convey. The new $20 minimum wage isn’t just about figures on a spreadshe­et. It hits home hard, impacting the small business owners at the ground level who run their operations under the McDonald’s banner.

A McDonald’s restaurant sits between a Subway and Taco Bell

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This is a really tough situation, especially for the franchisee­s who own several outlets and inve­sted their life savings into the­m. These companies have two choices. They can shoulder the increased labor costs, but this might affect their profits. Alternatively, they can hike­ prices, but this might turn off customers, affecting product sales. The way these franchise­es respond to the wage­ increase could esse­ntially rearrange the landscape­ of fast food franchises in California, which is a big deal for small businesse­s in the industry.