Asia sees widespread McDonald’s refugee phenomenon

Asia sees widespread McDonald’s refugee phenomenon

Staff Reporter


McDonald’s introduced 24-hour operations in its chains in Japan in 2006, and since then a number of homeless people have chosen to stay in its stores for a long-term stay due to its cheap costs, earning them the name McDonald’s refugees. Media outlets in mainland China, Hong Kong and South Korea have also done their own reports on the phenomenon which has been widely seen across the region, NetEase’s online news unit reports. These homeless or jobless people, who cannot afford to pay normal rentals due to low income, have chosen to stay in 24 hour restaurants like McDonald’s. Always-open restaurants started in China in 2006, with the media reporting the refugee phenomenon at a Beijing location in December 2006. In 2007, Hong Kong and South Korea media began similar reports, finding more and more low-income people choosing to stay at McDonald’s for the long-term.In addition to homeless people, there are also groups of office workers, unmarried mothers, elderly people, as well as unattended children all making a more permanent home in the restaurants.

In recent years, Hong Kong’s McDonald’s refugees have come to include office workers who own homes, but choose to stay in the stores due to traffic or uncertain working hours. To facilitate their work, they leave their personal items in the company, carrying with them only simple clothing and supplies, and staying at McDonald’s overnight before returning to work the next day. Many don’t return to their homes until the weekend, while others choose not to go home at all, citing poor living conditions or disputes with family members.

In China, there are many high school and college students choosing to stay at McDonald’s overnight to prepare their homework, and some tourists make the choice due to a tight budget.

In Europe and the United States, fast-food restaurants have strategies to minimize the time customers spend there and few people think about being allowed to stay there overnight. In Asia, McDonald’s has implemented a policy to function as a public space, with customers generally staying longer hours than those in Europe and the US. Customers see McDonald’s chains a clean and comfortable space to stay, which has resulted in the refugee phenomenon.

Staff are instructed to let customers enjoy their dining experience, and even after they finish their meal, employees cannot ask clients to leave. At most staff members can request a client not occupy several tables or chairs for long hours during peak hours.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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