Relations between McDonald’s and its franchisees had been at a high point in recent months, buoyed by numerous post-pandemic moves and a marketing machine that generated strong sales and cash flows for the owners.

That changed with a single email last week. Leadership for the chain’s U.S. market told operators that they would be paying higher charges for technology and a tuition program and that a decades-old Happy Meal subsidy would end. The technology fees would be temporary.

The new charges would amount to just over $12,000 per location, an estimated $170 million for all U.S. operators. It led to an uproar rare in its vociferousness—hundreds of franchisees attended a meeting of the National Owners Association on Sunday and pushed back against the company at an internal meeting between franchisees and the U.S. leadership on Monday. It also generated some pointed criticisms of executives from an internal franchisee leadership group.


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