There was outrage when the owner of a McDonald’s in the German city of Mannheim put a bilingual sign in the window directing customers to two different locations of the franchise.
Since the restaurant was shutting its doors permanently, owner Manfred Büch decided to give his customers alternate locations for more burgers and fries. The problem was with his directions. One sign, written in Turkish, advised customers to go to a branch in an unsafe neighborhood, while the other sign, in German, directed patrons to a McDonald’s in an upper class area.
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The signs directing people to two different locations caused a firestorm of reaction within several hours, as members of the local Turkish community accused the owner of “racial segregation in 2017”.
Büch—the owner of all three franchises—promptly responded to the criticism and took the signs down, claiming that there was a misunderstanding. In fact, he asserted that he meant to be “inclusive” to all customers. The decision to put one of the signs in Turkish was “out of respect” to Turkish customers, according to his statement. He explained that there was not enough space to print one sign in two languages referring to two locations, so he decided to split the message into two signs. He claimed that the choice of which sign was to be printed in German and which in Turkish was completely random.
Büch claimed that in 25 years he never had “racist” complaints. “We have worked together with international employees for 25 years, every day without any racism. To be accused now of discrimination makes us speechless and sad,” Die Welt quoted Büch as saying.
McDonald’s Germany reportedly responded by calling the incident a “misunderstanding” and praised the owner for his quick response in removing the signs.
The local newspaper, Mannheimer Morgen, reported that some citizens were so outraged that they have requested that the city’s advisory council get involved.
Manheim has a reputation as a progressive city and is known as an “arrival city” since more than 80,000 refugees have landed at its central railroad station since 2016. According to the Guardian, the majority of the refugees were relocated to other areas, with around 12,000 people remaining in Mannheim.