Virus Fears Prompt Burger King to Shut Half Its Restaurants in China

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
February 10, 2020Updated: February 11, 2020

The head of Restaurant Brands told Yahoo Finance that the coronavirus outbreak has led to the temporary closure of around half of the company’s Burger King restaurants in China.

Restaurant Brands CEO Jose Cil told the news outlet that around 500 Burger King locations in the Mainland had been shuttered due to virus fears.

“The biggest priority for us is making sure our team members are safe,” Cil told Yahoo Finance. “Their health is of the utmost priority as well as the guests. We are working with local authorities and master franchisees in the markets to make sure we have everything in account.”

Burger King joins other popular brands who’ve had their business disrupted by the deadly virus.

In a company earnings release in late January (pdf), Starbucks said its business had been hurt “materially” by the outbreak but that it expected the hit to be temporary.

“Currently, we have closed more than half of our stores in China and continue to monitor and modify the operating hours of all of our stores in the market in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus,” the company said.

logo of Starbucks Coffee
Beverage cups featuring the logo of Starbucks Coffee. (Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

McDonald’s, which shut several hundred of its 3,300 or so outlets in the Mainland, said it expected the bottom-line impact would be “fairly small” if the virus didn’t spread too widely.

Yum China, the sole licensee of Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell restaurants in China, has closed around a third of its outlets in the Mainland. In an earnings report, the company blamed the virus for expected first-quarter losses.

“As a result of the outbreak, the company may experience operating losses for the first quarter of 2020, and if the sales trend continues, for the full year 2020,” the company said.

Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China, called the coronavirus outbreak “a major public health situation in China,” and said more closures may come.

Apple, which has suppliers in Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak, said last week that the reopening of some suppliers’ factories had been moved to Feb. 10 from the end of January.

Epoch Times Photo
A motorcyclist rides past the logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, in Taipei, Taiwan on March 30, 2018. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

On Monday, Apple’s main iPhone maker, Foxconn, got the green light to reopen two major plants in China that were closed because of the coronavirus even though only some 10 percent of the workforce has returned so far, a source told Reuters.

The coronavirus scare has led Levi Strauss to shut about half its stores in China, with the company estimating that near-term profits would suffer.

Besides business impacts, there have been major travel disruptions as roughly two dozen countries around the world have taken precautionary measures to stem the spread of the deadly virus, including canceling flights and imposing quarantines on travelers.