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Restaurants register support for George Floyd protests

Several chains and countless independents expressed solidarity as the movement swept the country.
Photograph by Jonathan Maze

As protests over the death of George Floyd spread across the country this weekend, many restaurants spoke up in support of the movement. Chains as large as McDonald’s weighed in, along with countless independents that expressed solidarity despite sustaining damage amid the unrest. 

In a message to the McDonald’s system Saturday, the chain’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger said he was “appalled by recent events in Louisville, Georgia, New York and Minneapolis.”

He said the chain will provide opportunities to discuss the issues and its “commitment to diversity and inclusion.” 

In the note, posted on LinkedIn, he acknowledged that the chain—the largest in the U.S.—has historically been silent on issues that don’t directly relate to its business. But “since stepping into this role, I have assured you that I would communicate openly and transparently because I believe that it is critical to address issues that are affecting us all.”

In an email to members, the McDonald’s National Owners Association called for justice in the “horrific death of George Floyd” and expressed support for the National Black McDonald’s Owners Association. 

“McDonald’s can show America the way,” the email said. “We have literally been built on diversity and have the stories to prove it.” 

Several small and midsized chains also voiced support:

&pizza said it will offer employees paid time off for activism.  

Fatburger, which was founded by Lovie Yancey, a black woman, reiterated its commitment to those roots.  

Smoothie chain Jamba encouraged its followers to sign a petition for Justice for George Floyd.

Nick Bayer, CEO and founder of Saxbys Coffee, wrote on LinkedIn that the East Coast chain was “ALL IN on the fight for equality and equity for all.” The post was accompanied with a photo of a Saxbys location that had apparently been damaged in the protests.

Sweetgreen, Shake Shack and Zoes Kitchen were among other chains that tweeted support and resources.

Meanwhile, many independents found themselves caught in the fray as marchers flooded central business districts. Some expressed support nonetheless:

Los Angeles mainstay Canter’s Deli tweeted that it was offering free bottled water for protesters. 

Hawk’s Bar & Grill, located near the site of weekend protests in Madison, Wis., wrote: “Our property is replaceable. Black lives aren’t.”

Dan Simons, co-owner of Founding Farmers in Washington, D.C., tweeted that one of its restaurants had windows broken Saturday night, but that he and his team “stand firmly with the message of the protest.”

A post from Minneapolis restaurant Gandhi Mahal went viral Friday after the owner said “Let my building burn. Justice needs to be served.” 

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