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McDonald’s hires a new franchise relations executive

Karen Garcia takes on the role of vice president of franchise relations as tensions with operators appear to ease.
Photograph courtesy of McDonald's Corp.

McDonald’s Corp., working to improve relations with the franchisees that operate most of its restaurants, has hired Karen Garcia as the company’s new U.S. vice president of franchise relations, according to an announcement sent to workers and operators this week.

Garcia, who had overseen the company’s Florida market before leaving McDonald’s in December, will work with the company’s internal franchise leadership organization as well as diversity groups.

She will also serve as a “liaison” between the company’s U.S. leadership team and operators and will lead collaboration around the company’s 2020 vision, which features the Chicago-based company’s “Experience of the Future” remodel program.

The move also brings a 40-year veteran of McDonald’s back into the system at a time when operators are complaining that many people with whom they had developed relationships have left the company.

Garcia will report to Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald’s U.S. market.

In a statement sent to Restaurant Business on Tuesday, Kempczinski said Garcia would “play an instrumental part in working with our franchisees.”

“Karen is a proven leader with a deep background in operations, which McDonald’s has benefited from for more than 40 years,” Kempczinski said. “In her new role, Karen will play an instrumental part in working with our franchisees so they continue to have the support they need to run great restaurants.”

The hiring comes as tensions between McDonald’s and its franchisees appear to be easing. Those tensions flared up last year when franchisees, who own 95% of the chain’s 14,000 U.S. locations, formed the National Owners Association, the first independent franchise association in the company’s long history.

At issue were concerns over some of the company’s remodel requirements, falling cash flow and delivery. The company has been working with franchisees on some of those issues and gave operators up to two more years to remodel restaurants in exchange for a lower company contribution to the cost.

The association recently met for a third time in Washington, D.C.

Kempczinski attended a reception during the meeting, according to a summary of the meeting by the association’s board of directors.

In Garcia, the owners will have a liaison who has spent decades at the company, starting as a crew member in San Diego, according to Kempczinski’s announcement. She had worked in “every department in the field” before she was named general manager of the Florida region—which included nearly 900 of the chain’s 14,000 restaurants.

The company said she had retired in December but was recently brought back into the newly created franchise relations role.

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