'I knew McDonald's would take the eating-out market by storm'

McDonald's franchisee Cos Constantinou from South London explains why he has decided to become the first franchisee in McDonald's history to sign a second 20-year Franchise Agreement

When McDonald's first arrived in the UK, I knew it was a brand I wanted to become a part of. With its strong branding, professional approach, quality products and unique concept I knew it would take the UK eating-out market by storm and other food outlets would not stand a chance.

I promptly sold my Wimpy franchise and opened a chain of sport shops while I waited for McDonald's to announce the launch of its franchisee recruitment drive. With a long track record in retail and restaurants I knew I had the qualities, capital (gained from the sale of my businesses and properties) and determination McDonald's were looking for.

In 1988, I took over the Lewisham branch and by the end of my second year I had enough capital to buy my second restaurant, then gradually over the years I accumulated three more. 20 years on, I have not looked back - McDonald's and I have a great relationship and, as proof, I am the first franchisee to sign a second 20-year Franchise Agreement, with five restaurants operating under my belt. I am keen to keep building up my business and hope to eventually have eight operating under my instruction.

However, getting to this point has not been easy. McDonald's has a stringent recruitment process - you really have to prove you have what it takes in terms of qualities and capital. During the extensive training programme, prospective franchisees work in an existing McDonald's restaurant, to understand how the business operates. During my training I experienced lots of different roles: cleaning toilets, mopping floors, clearing tables, preparing burgers, serving customers and managing staff.

At the moment, I am busy re-imaging my restaurants with new contemporary interiors and customers are responding. Indeed, I've seen a significant sales uplift in my Lewisham restaurant since we re-imaged, with an exciting new interior. Part of the reason why McDonald's is outperforming its competitors is because as a brand we've modernised to meet our customers' needs. As well as introducing new look restaurants, we've made significant improvements to our menu. There's more choice. Customers can still get a Big Mac but there's also freshly prepared Deli sandwiches or grilled chicken salad. We also offer fantastic tasting Rainforest Alliance coffee at just over a pound. McDonald's is broadening its appeal by offering what our customers want - good quality food at an affordable price.

The support is also excellent. McDonald's has a department for everything from finance to customer service - I can pick up the phone and seek guidance on any issue. The great thing about being a franchisee is being your own boss, but it's great to know you're getting fantastic support on tap!

At 64, I have no intention of retiring any time soon. I love my job and the active role I have within my local community - from fundraising for charities to supporting local schools. It's a great feeling knowing I am in a position to give something back to the community.

Although a lot of the day-to-day running is handled by my team of expert managers - one of which is my son who will eventually take over the business. I still work a six-day week and I'm always on call.