NEW DELHI/KOLKATA: Varun Kumar (name changed) did not look his usual self, as he leaned on his motorcycle outside a McDonald’s outlet in the capital and lit a cigarette. It was 6.30pm, peak hour for staffers at the burger joint, as office goers dove in for a quick bite on their way home.
On any other day, Kumar, a portly 30-year-old, would be busy barking out orders for McChicken and fries at the restaurant. But on Wednesday, he appeared lost in thought. On being prodded gently about his sombre mood, Kumar, a manager at the McDonald’s outlet, said, “I quit. There is too much uncertainty.”
Kumar isn’t alone. When Connaught Plaza Restaurants (CPRL), the estranged franchise partner of McDonald’s, shut down around 84 restaurants (more than half of the total outlets it operates in North and East India) last week, around 6,000-10,000 direct and indirect employees of CPRL were left clueless. To add to their insecurity, this was the second time in one year that their employer had shuttered such a large number of restaurants.
“We have not shirked our responsibility, when 43 of our restaurants were closed in Delhi for months,” said Vikram Bakshi, MD of CPRL. “We have paid not only the salaries of our people but also the rentals of the restaurants that were shut. We shall meet our commitments.”
But employees of CPRL were not convinced because CPRL had just lost McDonald’s logistics partner Radhakrishna Foodland due to alleged non-payment of dues. Secondly, it has been operating McDonald’s branded restaurants despite being slapped with a termination notice of franchise agreement by the global burger chain in August, meaning CPRL does not have the right to run McDonald’s outlets in India.
“We may be working at McDonald’s but we are as much in the dark as customers about the reopening of restaurants,” said a manager at a CPRL-run McDonald’s outlet. “Moving from one supplier to another is a mammoth task. Conforming to the exacting requirements and then building up an inventory before commencing operations can take at least a fortnight, if not more.”
HR experts that TOIspoke to, said, the uncertainty in the minds of staffers due to repeated closures will not only weigh down on employee morale but can also compromise quality control. “In a situation like this, employee productivity will be impacted,” said Kamal Karanth, co-founder at specialist staffing firm, Xpheno. “It will lead to poor customer experience and pilferage can also happen as management attention is on fighting the survival battle.”
While CPRL has found a new logistics partner and reopened a few outlets, a McDonald’s India spokesperson said there is more uncertainty in store.