The Real Reason Burger King Can't Close Its Russian Restaurants

Every day, a new slew of businesses stop operations in Russia as a result of the invasion in Ukraine, from McDonald's and Starbucks to clothing brands and banks. Some people have questioned why fellow fast food giant Burger King still has operational stores in Russia, and the president of Burger King's parent company Restaurant Brands International (RBI) has finally addressed the issue in an open letter to employees.

Referring to the situation as the "horrifying attacks on Ukraine," RBI's international president David Shear says that there's currently no way for the company to unilaterally pull out of Russia. This has to do with the terms of the "master franchise agreements and "joint ventures." Under the current agreements, he explains, there is no clause that allows the company to "change the contract or allow any one of the partners to simply walk away or overturn the entire agreement," noting that other brands with "similar structures" will also have to continue to operate in Russia.

All that considered, Shear made it clear where RBI stands on the invasion: "Would we like to suspend all Burger King operations immediately in Russia? Yes. Are we able to enforce a suspension of operations today? No." As a result, the company is taking steps to make an impact in other ways.

Here's what Burger King is doing to help Ukraine instead

With their metaphorical hands tied from an operational standpoint, RBI nonetheless is taking other measures to impact Russia. David Shear's open letter states that RBI directly contacted the main operator and "demanded the suspension of Burger King restaurant operations in Russia," although the operator "refused" to comply.

RBI has also ceased to provide any corporate support for the Russian market. This includes assistance with the supply chain, marketing, and operations. They are also refusing any approvals for further expansion, as well as investment.

In addition, RBI has pledged to donate any profits from the Russian portion of the business to the United Nations' refugee agency. In fact, they've already donated $1 million, and have sent meal coupons worth $2 million to Burger King restaurants for the purpose of helping refugees from Ukraine. Lastly, RBI is working through the process to "dispose [its] ownership stake in the business." That's a slow process, but the company has also pledged any profits from that sale to help Ukraine, as well. Burger King might not be able to have it their way completely in this situation, but the chain definitely seems to be making a whopper of an effort.