Fast Food Scrooge: McDonald's Asks Franchisees to Open on Christmas

McDonald's open on Christmas
McDonald's open on Christmas

It's not just retailers pushing to get their employees on the clock during the holidays.

Now, McDonald's (MCD) is turning heads by asking its franchisees to open on Christmas Day.

"Ensure your restaurants are open throughout the holidays," McDonald's USA COO Jim Johannesen wrote in a memo before Thanksgiving that was published by Advertising Age.

Many franchisees complied, breaking from tradition by opening on Thanksgiving. Now the company wants to make sure that they are flipping burgers and scooping fries on Dec. 25, too.

"Our largest holiday opportunity as a system is Christmas Day," Johannesen writes, arguing that the average company-owned restaurant that opened last Christmas raked in $5,500 in sales. That's a lot of McRibs and eggnog shakes that wouldn't be sold if the world's largest restaurant operator stayed closed.

But who's calling the shots here: Ronald McDonald or Ebenezer Scrooge?

No Time to Give Thanks

Asking employees to come to work on a holiday got Walmart (WMT) and many of its department store chain rivals some unfriendly attention last month.

Pushing Black Friday sales into early Thursday evening cut into Thanksgiving dinner plans for employees and shoppers.

Even though many retailers were offering those who volunteered to come in 150 percent of their usual hourly wages -- and the move was done to ultimately provide customers more time to shop -- Walmart took plenty of heat for the decision.

Will McDonald's face similar criticism?

Would You Like Some Mistletoe with that Big Mac?

It's important to note that McDonald's isn't telling franchisees that they have to be open. The world's largest restaurant operator -- with 34,000 restaurants feeding 69 million customers daily -- is leaving it up to its owner-operators.

However, it's easy to see why it wants them to drum up sales on a day when most chains are closed.

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The burger giant posted a year-over-year decline in monthly same-store sales in October -- the first time Mickey D's has done that in nine years. Investors were surprised by November's bounce back, but at least a small part of that rebound can be credited to having more of its units open on Thanksgiving.

One would expect that opening on Christmas would boost December sales -- unless a barrage of negative publicity around the move drives away more customers than the extra day of sales lures in.

It's not pretty when "buy hamburgers" becomes "bah humbug."

After giving investors beefy returns in 2011, McDonald's has been one of the worst performing blue-chip stocks this year. The Motley Fool's top analyst on the company will tell you whether you should be worried by this trend, and he'll shed light on whether McDonald's is a buy at today's prices.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend McDonald's.

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