Nigel Dunnington, McDonald's, Preston

"It's very rewarding to see someone rise through the ranks to become a Manager within my business."

Nigel has worked for McDonald's for 26 years, starting as a Trainee Manager at the Marble Arch restaurant in London, having completed a degree in hotel and catering management. From there he worked his way up to Regional Manager for the North of UK and then Chief Operations Officer before taking on the position of Head of Worldwide Operations based in the McDonald's Global Head Office in Chicago. After three years in this role he decided to move back to the UK with his wife and two children to be closer to the rest of his family and he soon settled into his new role in Europe as SVP of Operations and Training.

'While I loved working for the company, I was missing the everyday face to face contact with staff and customers and the buzz of being 'on the shop floor',' reflects Nigel who, in November 2006, became a McDonald's franchise owner by taking ownership of five restaurants in the Preston area. 'The fact that I was buying five restaurants at once was an exciting prospect. I felt that my experience in the business gave me the best possible foundation and I was delighted to finally be able to fulfil my ambition of owning my own restaurants.'

Nigel employs 280 people across his restaurants and since becoming a franchise owner, he has grown sales by almost £1 million. Yet, despite this strong business performance, Nigel rates people development as his greatest achievement to date: 'I am a strong advocate of people development. It's very rewarding to see someone start out as an hourly paid crew member and then rise through the ranks to become a Manager within my business. We have some great training and development programmes such as the new Apprenticeship scheme which I fully support.'

Running five businesses can be challenging at the best of times but Nigel says the variety keeps things interesting and his enthusiasm levels high. While his restaurants continue to perform strongly, he cites managing his margins during these tough economic times as his biggest challenge to date. However, the investments he has made over the past two years in projects such as reimaging and new equipment is clearly paying off and he plans to double the size of his group over the next five years.

As well as a highly successful businessman, he is also a dedicated supporter of the McDonald's community football programme and, as well as sponsoring a number of local football teams, has forged close links with Preston FC through helping to facilitate a Level One coaching course with them.