An opportunity for the community

McDonald’s has given franchise owner Peter O’Keefe a lifestyle he could never have dreamed of in another vocation. Here Gareth Samuel talks to the franchise owner of three restaurants in Scotland about his return on investment, world-class support and how McDonald’s enables him to give so much back to his local community.

McDonald’s is a franchise brand like no other. Arguably the most recognisable logo on Earth, McDonald’s franchise opportunities are in great demand across the UK. In 1997, Peter O’Keefe opened up his first restaurant in Paisley using the money from the sale of his London property to invest in the business. It is unequivocally one of the best decisions he has ever made.

“I absolutely love what I do,” he explains. “My favourite part about my job is seeing my people develop. At least 10 managers have come up through my own business. Two of my current managers left school without any formal education and McDonald’s saw something in them and now they are great store managers.”

Peter has been able to build his business steadily over nearly two decades to the point where he has three restaurants all turning an impressive profit, but he has driven his success through hard work, in fitting with the company ethos. “Before McDonald’s I was in the licensed trade in London,” he says. “I got my first store in 1997 and then my second in 2009 and the third in 2011. I had opportunities to expand into more places earlier but my wife and I decided to hang on for the right location for us.

“I visited a franchise exhibition and saw hundreds of opportunities, but the only stand I couldn’t get near was McDonald’s and so I began to think there must be something in this.”

Peter was proved right. He filled out his application for the brand and was contacted with the date of his five-day On-the-Job Evaluation, which is standard McDonald’s policy. Peter explains: “This is a brilliant way to assess whether you want to become part of McDonald’s and whether you are right for it. Over the five days you will work on every station in the restaurant including the grills, the fryers, the tills and the management desk to see if you interact with staff well and can put the work in. I just loved the attention to detail and the organisation of the business from day one and knew after my OJE that McDonald’s was something I really wanted to be a part of.”

He received further reassurance from existing franchise owners in the McDonald’s network who he was free to talk to for research purposes. After making clear his intent to proceed, he began the extensive McDonald’s training programme. “The training taught me everything I needed to know to run a business and it was challenging. In order to pass McDonald’s training programme, you have to attend and pass every course in the programme and really put the work in. I remember leaving a few parties early during my training because I had an important exam the next day. McDonald’s have a minimum of nine months before you can get a location.”

Once Peter was up and running in his Paisley location, he flourished under the guidance and support of one of the UK’s strongest businesses. “With a company like McDonald’s, you know they will provide you with a framework of support,” he adds. “It is reassuring to know you are getting all the help you could ever need.

“The relationship between the company and its franchisees across the network is excellent, we are always consulted on key decisions and franchisees sit on each of the key leadership groups across the business.”

The benefits that come with being part of such a big brand financially are well documented and include extra buying power, national marketing strategies and dedicated support. But for Peter, it has been what he has been able to give back to his local community that been the revelatory part of this business. “With McDonald’s, I have had a great return on my investment, but it’s about much more than just the money. McDonald’s enables me to do so much in the local community, which I think is vital. I’ve coached local school football teams and we put on footballing events along with supporting local grassroots teams through McDonald’s’ Kickstart programme. Recently we had an event for the Special Olympics at Glasgow Green and I had the opportunity to go along to present medals. I mean, where else would I get the chance to do this. Our support for Ronald McDonald House Charities and McDonald’s own recycling and environment programmes are brilliant too.”

Peter is well established as a successful business owner in his local area and the support he gives to the local community through McDonald’s is inspiring. His community success was recognised when his restaurant was named ‘Community Restaurant of the Year’ in 2005 when he was presented with an award by Kenny Dalglish on behalf of McDonald’s, the Scottish Football Association and The Sunday Mail. Looking to the future, he is committed to the constant improvement of his existing businesses, and perhaps further expansion. “We have, over the past few years, got the ambience and store design right and I really want this to continue. We want to continue to make a positive impact on the local community and make McDonald’s a place where everybody comes for the overall experience – I think we are well on the way to achieving this. Profit and turnover means nothing without reinvestment in the business. This is something I believe McDonald’s fully understands.”