McDonald’s franchisees in the US are in discussions surrounding the formation of a franchisee advocacy group, the first of its kind in the history of the company.

“We believe it’s critical for us to come together to discuss the state of the business, unvarnished and unedited,” the franchisees said in a statement. “It’s only through honest dialogue that we will get to real solutions.”

McDonald’s has been on an aggressive refranchising programme for the last three years, aiming to have franchised more than 90 percent of its worldwide stores by the end of 2018 – a goal which has just been achieved. However, franchisees have argued that the rapid shift has left them in debt and struggling with cashflow, especially when coupled with the chain’s plan to offer the “Experience of the Future.” The new additions were expected to cost anywhere between US$150,000 and $700,000 per store, and while McDonald’s offered to pay over 50 percent of the cost, the memories of Create Your Taste still linger – upgrades for that initiative cost up to US$160,000 and was scrapped within years.

“We always welcome and are committed to a constructive, collaborative dialogue with our franchisees,” said a spokesperson from the chain. “We will continue to work closely with our franchisees so they have the support they need to run great restaurants and provide great quality experiences and convenience for guests.”