McDonald's Opens The Doors of its World-Famous Supply Chain

McDonald’s currently operates just over 1,200 restaurants across the UK, serving more than three million customers every day. The company spends £360 million each year on locally-sourced ingredients in its UK supply chain, including 100 per cent British and Irish beef, free-range eggs, Freedom Food pork from British farms and organic milk from UK dairies.

McDonald’s is often asked questions about its menu and its customers are increasingly interested in the provenance of their food, how it is made and where it comes from. Earlier this year, in response to these questions and to demonstrate its transparent supply chain, McDonald’s launched its ‘Quality Scouts’ programme, inviting independent members of the public to chronicle the journey of some of McDonald’s iconic menu items. From the Big Mac, Fries and Happy Meal Hamburger to the Sausage and Egg McMuffin, the Quality Scouts have had the opportunity to investigate the supply chain journey from some of the 17,500 British and Irish farms that supply McDonald’s, through manufacturers and supply partners, right up until the food is served at the restaurant front counter.

A wide range of people applied to become Quality Scouts, including McDonald’s customers and members of the public interested in farming, food and catering and hospitality. Members of the public were invited to apply for the programme through McDonald’s own website, in the press and on external sites such as Mumsnet, with the final selection process led by farmer, ex-England rugby legend and Celebrity Masterchef winner, Phil Vickery. Sixteen people were selected to take part, with successful applicants including a mum, a farmer’s daughter and a company director; a supply chain lecturer, a fireman and a rural business adviser.

At the Quality Scouts launch, Phil says: “As the son of a dairy farmer, I’ve always been very aware of where the food I eat has come from, so I’m excited to be leading the McDonald’s Quality Scouts on their mission to discover more about some of Britain’s best-loved products.” He continues: “I know McDonald’s is a big supporter of British and Irish farmers, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about how it sources its menu ingredients and prepares its food. I’ll also be testing my cooking skills in the kitchen and, most importantly, along with the other Quality Scouts, I’ll be reporting back on what I’ve learnt, what surprises me and anything I believe McDonald’s could do better.”

Each Quality Scout was given no-holds -barred access to the McDonald’s supply chain for their chosen product, getting to go behind the scenes to trace the journey of how each of the iconic menu items are made. Scouts spent time at farms and with some of the leading food companies that supply ingredients for the McDonald’s menu, including OSI, which supplies McDonald’s 100 per cent British and Irish beef patties and potato and fries specialist McCain.

For instance, Scouts on the Big Mac visit, led by Phil Vickery, visited a beef farm, an abattoir, a patty production plant, a bun factory and a lettuce farm, before finishing their visit in a McDonald’s restaurant to have a go at making their very own Big Mac.

The Quality Scouts interviewed farmers, food suppliers and McDonald’s employees to find out about McDonald’s short and simple supply chain and the values and long-term partnerships that underpin it. Scouts tweeted while on the visits and penned blogs about their experience, before publishing their findings on the ‘What Makes McDonald’s’ website (whatmakesmcdonalds.co.uk).

Ever since McDonald’s came to the UK in 1974, its business model has been built on a collaborative partnership between its suppliers, franchise owners and company employees. The Quality Scouts programme has highlighted how this close working partnership not only gives the brand and the business operation a competitive edge, but is the reason that McDonald’s and its supply chain partners are able to produce consistently high-quality food for people to enjoy in its restaurants.

McDonald’s franchise owners were integral to making the Quality Scouts programme a success. One franchise owner who was heavily involved in the Quality Scouts’ experience was Bob Meadowcroft, owner of five restaurants in the Midlands and East of England, who hosted the Scouts that went on both the Big Mac and Happy Meal Hamburger visits.

Bob began his career with McDonald’s in September 1980 as a Trainee Manager in London. He graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in English Literature with the intention of becoming a journalist. “I joined McDonald’s as a stop-gap, but realised quite quickly that I couldn’t imagine a more rewarding career,” says Bob.

He became Store Manager in East Ham in 1982 and Supervisor of several London restaurants in 1984, before relocating to the North when the company started expanding. “My wife and I are from Yorkshire and wanted to bring our kids up in this part of the world, so moving back up north was ideal for us,” Bob says. “I worked as an Operations Consultant in various Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire restaurants before taking a secondment to the HR department in Leeds in 1998.”

So what led Bob to decide to become a franchise owner? “In 1999, an initiative called ‘25 for 25’ was launched to mark 25 years of McDonald’s in the UK,” Bob explains. “It gave 25 long-standing employees the chance to purchase a restaurant franchise for themselves - I felt the opportunity was meant for me and a natural progression to my career.”

Customers are placed first and foremost at McDonald’s. McDonald’s franchise owners work collaboratively with the company and their local communities to build their business, allowing them to push forward and re-invest, creating a future for their restaurants that is relevant to their customers. “I felt it was important to take part in the Quality Scouts programme because it was important to my customers – they care a lot about where our products come from,” says Bob, whose approach to customer excellence has enabled him to grow his business from two restaurants in 2000, to the five that he has today. “It was also an important opportunity for my staff. My team at the Gallagher Retail Park restaurant in Scunthorpe loved meeting Phil Vickery and the Scouts – it gave them a chance to show off their skills and discuss their jobs with the Scouts, who seemed genuinely impressed with their commitment and talent.”

With one restaurant in Nottinghamshire and four restaurants in Lincolnshire, the latest of which opened in 2012 with record-breaking first-day sales, Bob knows that transparent values underpin McDonald’s relationship with its customers, “I am extremely proud of our longstanding British and Irish supply chain and the quality standards we have in place. It was fantastic to be able to give some of our customers this unique access behind the scenes, to let them uncover the facts for themselves.”