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KFC Malaysia closes over 100 outlets amid Gaza boycott

The franchise is the latest American food chain to be targeted by pro-Palestinian boycott campaigns in the Muslim-majority country
The logo of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is pictured at a restaurant in Malaysia's Pahang state, 30 April 2024 (AFP)

The American fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has been forced to close over 100 of its Malaysian outlets amid a month’s long boycott campaign over US support for Israel's war on Gaza.

According to Chinese media, QSR Brands, which owns the fast-food franchise, KFC, had to temporarily shutter 108 of its 600 outlets across Malaysia, most of them in the Muslim-majority Kelantan state.

In a statement, QSR Brands cited “challenging economic conditions” for the closures and that employees had been offered the opportunity to relocate to busier stores, saying that the company contributes “positively to the Malaysian economy through job security for 18,000 team members in Malaysia, of which, approximately 85 percent are Muslims.”

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is a global, pro-Palestine movement promoting boycotts, divestment and economic sanctions against Israel.

KFC is the latest American food franchise to be targeted by the national boycott movement in the Muslim-majority country over US support for Israel, amid its ongoing assault on Gaza. 

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McDonald's, which sparked outrage when its Israeli franchise announced it had donated thousands of meals to the Israeli military, reported in February that Israel’s war on Gaza had “meaningfully impacted” its sales, particularly in the Middle East and Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.

“The ongoing impact of the war on these franchisees’ local business is disheartening and ill-founded,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in February, speaking to analysts on the company’s conference call.

He added that he did not expect sales to recover before the end of the year.

In April, McDonald's bought out all the franchise restaurants in Israel after seeing the sales hit, taking direct control of the operations.

In January, the Malaysian franchisee for McDonald's sued BDS Malaysia for “false and defamatory statements”, seeking damages for over $1m.

Meanwhile, Starbucks CEO reported “record losses” in December, after the coffee chain sued the Starbucks Workers United union in October over a pro-Palestine social media post.

Malaysian franchisee Berjaya Food reported a 38.2 percent slump in sales in the fourth quarter of 2023, citing the “ongoing boycott”. In March, the company's founder pleaded with campaigners to end the boycott, saying that the majority of its employees are Muslims.

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