McDonald’s CEO says restaurants “might bring in law enforcement” if customers refuse to comply with mask policy

McDonald’s CEO says restaurants “might bring in law enforcement” if customers refuse to comply with mask policy
If you're a first responder or health care worker, you can get a free meal at McDonald's starting Wednesday. (Source: CNN)

(CBS News) - McDonald's said Wednesday that it would be closing about 200 U.S. restaurants amid the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes days after the restaurant chain joined Walmart, Target and CVS in mandating masks in all locations.

"We're spending a lot of time right now in our restaurants making sure we can keep our crews safe, making sure we can keep our customers safe," McDonald's President and CEO Chris Kempczinski said in an interview only on "CBS This Morning" Thursday. "We've for quite some time required our crew to wear masks, but we thought that in light of what we're seeing, it's prudent now that we also ask our customers to wear masks in the restaurant as well."

While Walmart and CVS have said they will be limiting their enforcement of the mask mandate, Kempczinski did not rule out the possibility of getting authorities involved if a situation in which a customer refuses to wear a mask escalates.

"If someone is unwilling to wear a mask and comply with our rules, that might be where we might bring in law enforcement," he said.

Kempczinski said restaurants and crews have undergone training about how to "explain to customers why we have the requirement," and the training included "deescalation." In recent months, retail workers at various stores across the country have been attacked for trying to enforce mask mandates.

"Ultimately, we're not going to be asking our crew people to put themselves in harm's way," he said.

However, Kempczinski said he was "pleased" that customers have so far been "more than willing" to wear a mask in the days since the rule was implemented.

"I think the vast majority of people, vast majority of Americans understand why it's important to be wearing a mask," he said.

The recent coronavirus-safety guidance came as McDonald's announced they were "refreshing" company values, including initiatives surrounding diversity, inclusion and "keeping our people and our customers first."

"And that, in the case of the pandemic right now, is all about safety," he said.

McDonald's has also faced allegations that it has fostered a workplace culture of sexual harassment, and allegedly punished workers for speaking out. A lawsuit was filed against the fast food giant last year, and The Nation recently published an article describing "targeted workers" and "recurring sexual harassment."

Kempczinski called the allegations "disturbing" and said the company needed to "find out what went wrong" and "make fixes quickly" to "understand how do we do better."

"It certainly goes against everything that we stand for as a company, everything that I want us to be doing around diversity and inclusion," he said, later adding: "You don't get to be a brand and a business the size of McDonald's without treating people well, being a good employer. But in a system of our size, you will have situations the likes of which you're talking about there."

“When those situations crop up, it’s important to acknowledge them, address them, and do everything we can to learn from it,” Kempczinski said. “And so as CEO, that’s certainly what I’m committed to make sure happens.”