KFC won’t pay rent during lockdown

By Loni Prinsloo, Leanne de Bassompierre and Janice Kew for Bloomberg

KFC-owner Yum! Brands Inc. has told landlords in South Africa that the U.S. firm won’t be paying rent while outlets are closed during a three-week government-enforced lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision relates to 48 company-owned stores in the continent’s most industrialized country, a spokeswoman for KFC South Africa said in emailed comments. The remainder of the 1 145 KFC fried-chicken restaurants across Africa are operated by franchisees who are making their own arrangements, she said.

One owner of more than 40 KFC shops across four sub-Saharan Africa countries, Grant Wheatley, said he is in talks with landlords, banks and suppliers about arrangements to cope with the shutdown. South Africa has ordered all restaurants to close during the period, including delivery services, with reopening scheduled for 17 April.

Botswana and Lesotho, where Wheatley has outlets, have also imposed shutdowns.

Yum! and Wheatley join retailers around the world in asking landlords for leniency during a period where they will generate little or no revenue, creating a nightmare for banks and real-estate firms. The Foschini Group Ltd., a South African clothes retailer, said it’s stopping payments during the lockdown, while Swedish fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz AB and the U.K.’s Primark are among others to have withheld rent.

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