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Steve Easterbrook, the former McDonald’s boss fired for dating a colleague, backs plant-based fast food rival, report says

Steve Easterbrook was forced to return $105 million to McDonald’s in December after being fired in 2019.

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  • Ex-McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook has invested in plant-based Clean Kitchen Club, per Propel.
  • He was fired by the fast food chain in 2019 for concealing sexual relationships with colleagues.
  • McDonald’s reclaimed $105 million in severance payments from Easterbrook in December.

The former chief executive of McDonald’s has backed a vegan rival after being fired by the fast-food giant over his relationships with employees, according to reports.

Hospitality news site Propel reported that Steve Easterbrook, who parted ways with McDonald’s in November 2019, has been linked with UK-based Clean Kitchen Club, a plant-based fast-food startup.

The Clean Kitchen Club, run by YouTuber Michael Pearce and reality star Verity Bowditch, was previously valued at £12 million ($14.2 million). It is also backed by Grace Beverley, the founder of sustainable activewear brand TALA.

Pearce told the UK’s Independent in March: “We want to be the plant-based McDonald’s.”

Easterbrook was credited with reviving McDonald’s after he was appointed global CEO in 2015 as sales plummeted. He introduced more technology such as touchscreens and instigated a wave of cost-cutting.

He was fired after having a relationship with a colleague, and McDonald’s accused him in a 2020 lawsuit of covering up relationships with three other employees. 

The lawsuit accused Easterbrook of sending dozens of nude photos, including some of McDonald’s employees, on his work email account, approving a stock grant to one of the women featured in the explicit images, and of trying to delete the pictures before his devices were handed over to the company for investigation. 

Sources told Insider that Easterbrook frequently engaged in inappropriate behavior while running McDonald’s. An employee said he and his friends were known to frequent the Viagra Triangle, a Chicago neighborhood filled with bars where wealthy older men go to meet younger women.

In December, Easterbrook was forced to return $105 million he was initially granted in severance payments from the company following the lawsuit. He was entitled to a minimum severance of $702,225 when he was initially let go. He was also required not to work for a rival for two years.

Easterbook joined McDonald’s in 1993 as a store manager and rose up the ranks before leaving in 2011 to run Pizza Express and then noodle chain Wagamama. He returned to the Golden Arches two years later and later became its UK chief. 

Clean Kitchen Club didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Easterbrook couldn’t be reached for comment.

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