The CEO of Burger King is getting grilled for telling a group of students that British women are ugly and that food in the U.K. is "terrible."
Bernardo Hees, who was named the head of worldwide fast food chain in September, was speaking to a group of students in Chicago late last week when he unfondly recalled his days as a young scholar working on and MBA at the University of Warwick in England.
"The food is terrible and the women are not very attractive," Hees said, according to the University of Chicago's student paper, the Chicago Maroon. "Here in Chicago, the food is good and you are known for your good-looking women."
Hees was trying to make a point that his MBA experience was a breeze because he wasn't worried about wining and dining, but officials and chefs in the U.K. have pounced on his remarks.
"If he views women as potential distractions in academia, I wonder how he views them in the workplace?" Charli Fritzner, a women's campaigns officer at Warwick University's student union, asked the Guardian. "It doesn't make Burger King an attractive employer for women."
Michelin-starred English chef Marcus Wareing, who runs a restaurant at the posh Berkeley hotel in London, mused that the comments seemed pretty rich coming from the head of a fast food chain whose Whoppers and fries have been blamed for helping turn America into a nation of fatties.
"It's an insult to British gastronomy," Wareing told the Guardian.
Burger King said its new chief regretted the gaffe.
"Mr. Hees apologizes if his comment has offended anyone," a spokesperson said. "It... was intended as a humorous anecdote to connect with his audience."
Burger King turned heads in the fall by announcing the Brazilian-born Hees, who is 40, would serve as its new CEO. Hees had been the head of America Latina Logistica, Latin America's largest railroad and logistics company.
The restaurant chain has 11,500 outlets worldwide.