KFC closes outlets in Muslim-majority areas of Malaysia as boycott begins to bite

In Malaysia, the franchise holder for American fast-food giant KFC says it has been forced to temporarily close numerous outlets, citing “challenging economic conditions”, as consumers in the Muslim-majority nation persist with a months-long boycott against brands perceived to have links with Israel.
KFC has joined the ranks of fast-food rival McDonald’s and coffee franchise Starbucks – all American chains – in becoming targets of a nationwide boycott movement in Malaysia triggered by Israel’s war on Gaza, which has received backing from Washington in the form of military aid.

‘What Israel wants’: Malaysia stresses Palestinians’ plight after Iran’s attack

The ongoing conflict has resulted in nearly 35,000 Palestinian deaths – the majority of them civilians – according to health authorities in the Hamas-controlled enclave, with many of its 2.3 million residents also displaced.

QSR Brands, the company that has held the KFC franchise in Malaysia since 1973, said it had taken proactive measures to temporarily close outlets “to manage increasing business costs and focus on high-engagement zones”.

“Employees from affected outlets were offered the opportunity to relocate to busier operating stores as part of the company’s re-optimisation efforts,” the company said in a statement released late on Monday. It did not say how many outlets had been shut.

Checks on Google for KFC restaurants operating in Malaysia showed more than two dozen outlets marked as temporarily closed, mostly in the Muslim-majority states of Kelantan, Kedah and Terengganu in the Malay Peninsula’s north.

Protesters march towards the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month at a rally held in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Photo: EPA-EFE

KFC Malaysia employs around 18,000 people, with 85 per cent of them being Muslim, according to company figures.

The boycott movement, driven by social media and growing Islamist sentiment in the country, has hit Malaysian businesses hard in recent months.

In March, the wealthy owner of Malaysia’s Starbucks franchise pleaded with Malaysians to stop boycotting the brand, stressing that it is wholly locally owned and run and that more than 80 per cent of its staff are Muslim.
The Malaysian franchisee for McDonald’s, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit against a pro-Palestinian boycott movement in January for inciting public hatred against the brand and damaging its business. It had originally sought US$1.3 million in damages, but the case has since gone into arbitration.

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Malaysia’s leader condemns Israel over Gaza strikes as thousands attend pro-Palestinian rally

Malaysia’s leader condemns Israel over Gaza strikes as thousands attend pro-Palestinian rally

The government has also joined the fray, warning in March during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that “strict action” would be taken against anyone who misleads consumers by selling dates from Israel. This came after authorities arrested a man for allegedly mislabelling a batch of the fruit for sale in Malaysia.

Negotiations for a ceasefire in the seven-month conflict hit yet another roadblock on Tuesday, Reuters reported, after Israeli air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians while Hamas leaders were in Cairo for a fresh round of truce talks.

Israel’s government has stated its determination to continue its offensive until it eliminates all members of Hamas.

The war began following an October 7 assault by Hamas militants in southern Israel, which resulted in some 1,200 deaths and more than 250 people being taken hostage.

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