About the Rumor McDonald's Is Considering Leaving California Due to State's Minimum Wage Increase

An online article claimed McDonald
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On June 12, 2024, Snopes received an email from a reader asking, "Is McDonald's considering leaving California?" The reader attached to the email a screenshot of an article credited to the DailySparkUp blog. The headline of that story read, "Is Fast Food Becoming A Luxury? McDonald's Might Exit California As 80% Of Americans Struggle To Afford Fast Food."

An online article claimed McDonald's was reportedly leaving California due to the minimum wage hike to 20 dollars an hour enacted by a new law in the state.
An online article claimed McDonald's was reportedly leaving California due to the minimum wage hike to 20 dollars an hour enacted by a new law in the state.

DailySparkUp.com originally published this article on June 11. The reader's screenshot displayed the story as republished on MSN.com. Some of the more than 100 users commenting on the MSN.com article appeared to believe McDonald's truly was considering closing all of its more than 1,200 restaurants in California.

However, Snopes' review of this rumor found no evidence from any credible source confirming McDonald's planned to close all California restaurants and leave the state. The rumor was apparently an attempt to capitalize on clicks from Republican voters who harbor a dislike of the politics in the Golden State and its Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom. Further, the DailySparkUp article bore signs of inauthentic journalistic practices and the use of artificial-intelligence (AI). We will delve into those matters later in this story.

We contacted both McDonald's Corporation and the DailySparkUp blog to ask about this rumor and article but have not yet received any responses.

Is McDonald's Really Considering Leaving California?

DailySparkUp's headline asked if fast food was "becoming a luxury" and mentioned 80 percent of Americans purportedly struggling to afford fast food. The headline apparently referenced a LendingTree.com survey published in May 2024. According to LendingTree.com, part of that survey found 78% of American consumers "view fast food as a luxury because it's become increasingly expensive."

The DailySparkUp article began as follows:

California is notorious for its progressive laws, recently implementing a $20 minimum wage hike that has made even budget-friendly McDonald's consider leaving the state, as 80% of Americans now find fast food a luxury.

In response to California's new minimum wage law, which raised hourly pay to $20 starting April 1, fast food restaurants across the state have significantly increased their menu prices. According to a report from Kalinowski Equity Research, Wendy's and Chipotle Mexican Grill have adjusted their prices upwards by approximately 8% and 7.5% respectively.


Amid these adjustments, McDonald's is reportedly considering a drastic measure—exiting the California market altogether.

The story's author, displayed as "Kate Smith," wrote that McDonald's was "reportedly" considering leaving California. The word "reportedly" usually indicates the existence of publicly-available reporting from another source. However, the author cited no other reporting as a source for this claim.

The article's mention of "a $20 minimum wage hike" referenced California's new law establishing a $20 minimum wage for some restaurants, which went into effect on April 1.

The Author 'Kate Smith' and AI

DailySparkUp.com features a photo and bio for "Kate Smith," the purported author of the McDonald's article. A Google search found no information for "Smith" outside of DailySparkUp's website.

The bio did not contain any background details or other identifying information. According to the DailySparkUp Facebook page's "page transparency" tab, the website's owner or owners reside in Hungary.

The bio for "Smith" read: "Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word."

An online article claimed McDonald's was reportedly leaving California due to the minimum wage hike to 20 dollars an hour enacted by a new law in the state.
An online article claimed McDonald's was reportedly leaving California due to the minimum wage hike to 20 dollars an hour enacted by a new law in the state.

The image for "Smith" displayed signs of possibly being generated by AI. The very specific type of blurry shapes in the background, the facial alignment of the eyes and mouth and the overall look of the image resembled a number of images containing fake faces reviewed in past Snopes investigations.

A scan of the "Smith" image with the deepfake-detection tool on Sensity.ai resulted in a "report status" of "suspicious" with a 99.9 percent "confidence" rating that a StyleGAN2 model generator was used to create the image. (StyleGAN2 refers to the generative adversarial network (GAN) image modeling software created by Nvidia.)

In our email outreach to DailySparkUp.com, we asked about their source claiming McDonald's was "reportedly" leaving California. We also asked about the author and the author's image, as well as whether AI was used to generate part or all of the article's text. We will update this story if we receive any future responses.

Additional Notes

A Google search for "McDonald's leaving California" (without quotation marks) displayed other recent results showing the story on DailySparkUp was not the first iteration of this rumor.

For example, on May 31, SFGate.com reported about an article published by the UnitedLiberty.com blog. The headline of the UnitedLiberty.com story reading, "McDonald's on the verge of CLOSING in California After $20 Minimum Wage." Like the article that appeared on DailySparkUp, MSN.com republished the UnitedLiberty.com story. Further, the article featured an author who may or may not be a real person and possibly used one or more AI tools to aid in writing the piece.


Beam, Adam. "New California Law Raises Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers to $20 per Hour, among Nation's Highest." The Associated Press, 28 Sept. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/california-minimum-wage-increase-fast-food-newsom-69c26b7f07f2647149c37677446cea30.

Chea, Terry, and Adam Beam. "New $20 Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers in California Is Set to Start Monday." The Associated Press, 31 Mar. 2024, https://apnews.com/article/california-fast-food-minimum-wage-a04c2e559b09cbcd26dd5702e0755a83.

Karoff, Timothy. "The California McDonald's Rumor Is Coming from a Digital Ghost." SFGate.com, 31 May 2024, https://www.sfgate.com/sf-culture/article/mcdonalds-leaving-california-rumor-source-19488843.php.

Liles, Jordan. "These Pro-DeSantis Facebook Groups Appear Inauthentic. Here's What We Found." Snopes, 19 Oct. 2022, https://www.snopes.com//news/2022/10/19/desantis-downton-abbey/.

"Nearly 80% of Americans Now See Fast Food as a 'luxury,' Survey Says." ABC7 Los Angeles, 29 May 2024, https://abc7.com/post/80-americans-now-fast-food-luxury-new-lendingtree/14888208/.

"Number of McDonald's Stores by State US 2023." Statista, Statista Research Department, 26 Feb. 2024, https://www.statista.com/statistics/631235/number-of-mcdonald-s-us-by-state/.

Schulz, Matt. "Nearly 80% of Americans Say Fast Food Is Now a Luxury Because It's Become So Expensive." LendingTree, 20 May 2024, https://www.lendingtree.com/debt-consolidation/fast-food-survey/.

Sensity AI: Best All-In-One Deepfake Detection Software 2024. https://sensity.ai/.

"StyleGAN2." GitHub, NVlabs, https://github.com/NVlabs/stylegan2.