Why is McDonald's pressuring its stores to remain open on Christmas?

The fast food chain isn't exactly embracing the yuletide spirit

Company-operated McDonald's restaurants that remained open last Christmas day averaged around $5,500 in sales.
(Image credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

In the past month, a lot of evidence has emerged confirming that McDonald's is probably not the happiest workplace on Earth. In November, New York City employees of the fast food chain walked off the job to protest their crummy wages. Now, Maureen Morrison at AdAge reports that McDonald's HQ is pressuring franchise owners to remain open on Christmas, reversing past policy of allowing individual branches to give all their employees the day off. "Ensure your restaurants are open throughout the holidays," wrote Chief Operating Officer Jim Johannesen in a Nov. 8 memo. "Our largest holiday opportunity as a system is Christmas Day. Last year, [company-operated] restaurants that opened on Christmas averaged $5,500 in sales."

So what's behind this surge of bah-humbuggery? It turns out McDonald's made a lot of money by having most if its stores remain open on Thanksgiving, helping the chain do far better than expected in November. The spike in sales was especially necessary because McDonald's had reported an almost unheard of drop in sales in October, leading many analysts to wonder if the company had lost its magic touch. "If Santa grants corporate's wish and every store in McDonald's 14,000-strong U.S. system opens on Christmas," says Morrison, "it could line the chain's stocking on Dec. 25 with a total of $84 million."

Even worse for McDonald's staffers: The chain reportedly will not offer holiday pay to its beleaguered employees. Supposedly it's up to individual owners to make a decision on overtime pay.

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McDonald's wasn't always such a Grinch. In past years, "you would never even talk about being open for Christmas," Richard Adams, a former franchise owner, tells AdAge. "For the franchisees, this is a big cultural shift."

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