Starbucks, Pizza Hut did not 'change brand names to avoid Israel boycott'

  • Published on July 11, 2024 at 07:01
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Indonesia

Coffee giant Starbucks and popular restaurant chain Pizza Hut did not rename as "Vista Coffee" and "Ristorante", contrary to claims shared on Facebook and TikTok in Indonesia that the companies rebranded to avoid a boycott targeting brands over Israel's war in Gaza. Representatives for Starbucks and Pizza Hut in the Southeast Asian country told AFP the businesses had not changed their names. An AFP journalist in Indonesia found on July 9 that branches still bore the same names.

"Starbuck (sic) has been renamed Vista Coffee... Pizza Hut has been renamed Ristorante," read Indonesian text overlaid on a TikTok video from June 16.

The video, which garnered more than 15,000 views, linked the supposed rebrand to a boycott spearheaded by pro-Palestinian activists that has targeted major Western brands since the outbreak of the Gaza war.

The war was triggered by Hamas's unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The militants seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead. 

Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed more than 38,290 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to figures from the territory's health ministry.

"Be careful not to consume the wrong products, the boycott continues!" the post added.

Screenshot of a TikTok post sharing the false claim, taken on July 10, 2024

The false claim made the rounds on TikTok and Facebook, with some social media users appearing to believe Starbucks and Pizza Hut had genuinely rebranded.

"Before and after the name change, I never bought it," one TikTok user commented.

"Even though they changed the name 1,000 times, people are still going to know. Still boycotting for life," another wrote.

No rebrand

Vidi Prima Lestari Putri, corporate communications manager for Sari Coffee Indonesia -- which holds exclusive franchise rights to operate Starbucks in the archipelago -- told AFP on July 5 that the firm had not changed its name. 

The false rumour emerged when a Vista Coffee outlet opened on the site of a Starbucks branch at Dublin airport in Ireland, she explained.

The outlet opened in January after the Starbucks branch's contract expired, Dublin airport posted on X, adding it would occupy the space on a "temporary" basis before a local coffee brand relocated there permanently (archived link).

Starbucks said in an earlier statement about the Israel-Gaza that it has "never contributed to any government or military operation in any way" (archived link).

A representative for Pizza Hut Indonesia separately said the chain had not changed its name to Ristorante.

"Ristorante is a new concept from Pizza Hut which has been operating since December 1, 2023 in 22 branches" in the country, the spokesperson told AFP on July 3.

Pizza Hut's Ristorante branches -- which offer unique menus -- make up a handful of Pizza Huts in Indonesia. The company's website shows the majority -- more than 500 outlets -- simply use the name "Pizza Hut" (archived link).

Meanwhile, there was no evidence of a name change at Starbucks and Pizza Hut branches in the greater Jakarta area, according to an AFP journalist on July 9. 

Photos taken in the greater Jakarta area showing a Starbucks (left) and Pizza Hut (right) on July 9, 2024

AFP has previously fact-checked misinformation about the war in Gaza here.

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