Chris Kempczinski to become McDonald's chairman

The fast-food chain is combining the CEO and chairman roles for the first time in 20 years as longtime director and Chairman Enrique Hernandez steps down.
Chris Kempczinski will be the first McDonald's CEO to also get the chairman title in 20 years. | Photo courtesy of McDonald's.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski was named chairman of the fast-food burger giant’s board of directors on Tuesday as longtime Chairman Enrique Hernandez announced his retirement.  

“After careful deliberation about the best succession plan and governance structure to carry McDonald’s forward, the board has determined this is the right moment to evolve the board’s structure, re-combining the chairman and CEO roles under Chris Kempczinski,” Hernandez said in a system message seen by Restaurant Business.

It’s the first time in 20 years that the same person has held both the chairman and CEO titles at the Chicago-based fast-food giant, since the untimely death of Jim Cantalupo in 2004.

It also highlights the rise of Kempczinski, who was suddenly elevated to the CEO role in 2019 following the firing of former CEO Steve Easterbrook. McDonald’s sales have thrived in the years since then despite the worldwide pandemic and the inflationary environment that followed.

Kempczinski, first as president of McDonald’s USA and then as the company’s CEO, has led a broad reorganization of the company and overhauled its relationship with franchisees—one that has often led to tension with operators.

But the results have generally been there: U.S. same-store sales have increased all but one quarter under his tenure and the brand has regained its status as the world’s largest restaurant chain by unit count.

“Your board has supreme confidence in Chris’ ability to bring together the chairman and CEO roles to herald in this new era,” Hernandez said in his message. “Now well into his fifth year as CEO, Chris has led the brand through moments of intense change and challenge, including the global pandemic and our exit from Russia.”

The company exited its Russia business in 2022 following that country’s invasion of Ukraine. Hernandez also highlighted the company’s “Accelerating the Arches” strategy.

It also represents the departure of Hernandez, the CEO of Inter-Con Security Systems who has been a director at McDonald’s since 1996. Hernandez stepped into the chairman’s role in May 2016.

He is also the last remaining member of the board who worked with legendary former Chairman and CEO Fred Turner, one of McDonald’s key architects. “In the time I’ve been a board member, we’ve more than doubled our restaurant count, expanded to more than 100 markets and delivered a total shareholder return of more than 2,000%,” he wrote.

To replace Hernandez, McDonald’s is nominating Kimberly-Clark CEO Mike Hsu for a seat on the board. 

Miles White was named lead independent director.

In a statement, Kempczinski called Hernandez “a tremendous advisor to McDonald’s” since he joined the board. “His vision, thoughtful counsel and dedication to McDonald’s created a blueprint for us all in how we navigate change and uphold our leading position in the industry,” he said.

Kempczinski added that, as chairman and CEO, he is “committed to advancing our Accelerating the Arches strategy and continuing to deliver strong performance.”

UPDATE: This story has been updated to add comments from Chris Kempczinski.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


How Popeyes changed the chicken business

How did a once-struggling, regional bone-in chicken chain overtake KFC, the formerly dominant player in the U.S. market? With a fixation on sandwiches and many more new restaurants.


Get ready for a summertime value war

The Bottom Line: With more customers opting to eat at home, rather than at restaurants, more fast-food chains will start pushing value this summer.


Inside Chili's quest to craft a value-priced burger that could take on McDonald's

Behind the Menu: How the casual-dining chain smashes expectations with a winning combination of familiarity and price with its new Big Smasher burger.


More from our partners