A McDonald's in the city of Mannheim, Germany was closing, but the world’s biggest fast food giant still has two other branches of travel distance in the city. The owner Manfred Búch decided to put up informative signs outside the store to give customers directions to the other open McDonalds branches as alternative so loyal customers would not have to say goodbye to their favorite burgers and fries as well, with the closing of the store.
And to be even more helpful, the owner decided to use two languages for the two signs and put side by side together. One sign was written in German, the other in Turkish. And while the intent is the same, to point customers to an alternate McDonalds branch, the owner decided to separately “endorse” the two branches, splitting the branches to the two signs. The choice of which branch goes to which sign with a different language was telling, though, and it has caused such an outrage among citizens.
The sign written in Turkish advised customers to go to a branch in an unsafe neighborhood, while the sign in German directed patrons in an upper-class area.
The firestorm of reactions quickly spread in a matter of mere hours. Members of the local Turkish community accused the McDonalds owner of “racial segregation in 2017.”
Some citizens were also so outraged that they have called on their city’s advisory council to get involved as reported by the local newspaper Mannheimer Morgen.
The owner of all three branches quickly responded to the backlash by taking the signs down and claimed that there was simply a misunderstanding. He also maintained that he meant to be “inclusive” to all customers. In a statement, Buch said that the decision to put one of the signs in Turkish was “out of respect” to their Turkish customers.
In response to the contentious signs pointing to two different branches of the fast food restaurant, Buch explained that there was not enough space to print one sign in two languages referring to two separate locations, so he decided to split the message into two signs. The owner claimed that the choice of which store was to go to the sign printed in German and which other branch was to go to the sign printed in Turkish was completely random.
The owner asserted that he never received complaints about being a racist while being in business the past 25 years. He said that his businesses have worked with international employees for 25 years, every day without racism. Buch said that being accused now of discrimination makes them “speechless” and “sad”.
McDonald’s Germany also called the incident a “misunderstanding” and even praised Buch for his quick response in removing the signs.
Racism may be a touchy issue in Mannheim as it holds a reputation as a progressive city and is known as an “arrival city” since more than 80,000 refugees have arrived at its central railroad station since 2016. The majority of the refugees were later relocated, with only about 12,000 people remaining in Mannheim.