If you’ve any preconceptions when it comes to running a franchise business with one of the world’s most well-known quick-service restaurant brands, it’s time to think again. McDonald’s recently rolled out an unprecedented investment and upgrade across its restaurant business – ‘Experience of the Future’ (EotF) refreshing the look, feel and overall customer experience.
The company is also heavily invested in making the franchise opportunity accessible to more of the right individuals with the recent introduction of an educational bursary for franchisees in training.
During the franchisee training process applicants undergo restaurant training working in a store for a minumum of 16 weeks, followed by a business immersion and handover. The educational bursary aims to make the training accessible to all candidates.
Alongside this is McDonald’s continuing support – described by more than one of our interviewees as “second to none” – an opportunity to serve the community and all with an established brand name.
Sarah Lloyd, a former convenience store franchisee, now runs her McDonald’s in Wiltshire
What did you do before you took on your McDonald’s franchise?
I worked for a high-street retailer in senior management before owning and running a food retail business. This enabled me to operate quickly and effectively within McDonald’s. Having been a business owner, I understood the time, commitment and personal drive it takes to be successful – particularly through developing and motivating your team. It was something I really loved and have a real passion for. The franchising model appealed as it embraced the way of working “for yourself but not by yourself”, as you have the support of a globally recognised brand.
How did you find out about the opportunity?
I spoke with an existing franchisee and went to an Insight Day to get a better understanding of the business and what was required in terms of investment and as an individual. It also gave me the chance to speak directly with the recruitment team as well as with existing franchisees.
A McDonald’s franchise allows you to be your own boss, with the support and guidance from the system. The training involved before taking on a restaurant is indicative of the commitment from both sides, it also allows you to hit the ground running and concentrate on your team and the operations of the business. The training is absolutely vital in understanding the processes and systems that McDonald’s uses.
How long did the process take?
It took about 24 months from initial interest to walking into my restaurant on day one. This is important because a) this is a 20-year commitment and one that has to be right for both yourself and McDonald’s, and b) the recruitment process allows you to demonstrate your intentions through practical exercises, such as working in a real restaurant environment, presentations, interviews and so on. As well as gaining real hands-on knowledge of the business.
Describe the initial training you were given and subsequent support you receive…
The initial training was absolutely world class! You’re in a restaurant for the first six months and learn everything from the bottom up! Crew member, crew trainer, shift manager, salaried manager, then a business manager, doing all of the on-the-floor training as well as the courses and theory work. Then you’re “buddied” up with an experienced franchisee who acts as a mentor during training. And you have access to a McDonald’s franchisee consultant who acts as your go-to for support; this relationship is invaluable and supportive throughout your training and the franchise term.
It’s an intense and exciting time, with new experiences and things to learn daily. It’s daunting at the start as you’re effectively back on the starting blocks having already achieved career success! Expectation is high and you have to be prepared to invest a significant amount of time and effort in order to achieve the best results. Most exciting is that everything is new and every day is a new challenge!
Can you describe a typical day?
There’s no typical day in McDonald’s! It’s a people business that changes pace rapidly and you’re there to maintain and increase momentum. My role is to develop and grow the business through leading, mentoring and coaching the team. The customer experience is a huge focus for the brand and continues to evolve. I love people, so seeing the team mature and develop is one of the most rewarding and satisfying elements of being a franchisee.
Would you recommend franchising to others? What advice would you give?
It’s the most rewarding thing you can do but it is hard work and a decision not to be taken lightly. It’s really important to do your research, take time to speak with existing operators, look into the marketplace and all the options within the sector – this is vital as there are many, and it’s important you select one that suits your skillset and meets your expectations and requirements. Due diligence is key, go into it with your eyes open to avoid the risk of surprises. Planning in advance, from a financial point of view, will also set you up well in the early days when growing the business is your priority.
For me, franchising embraces “in business for yourself but not by yourself” and this is evident with McDonald’s as a globally recognised brand with world-class training. This sets you up from day one and allows you to develop and grow whilst having the necessary support to operate effectively and efficiently from the start. Franchising, whilst not mitigating risk completely, gives you resources and the support to hit the ground running. It’s a fast-moving, dynamic business built on people that innovates, invests and adapts constantly. The training and support is world-class and facilitate the brand’s very high standards of execution.
The UK and Ireland business has achieved 50 quarters of growth. What’s left in the tank?
Lots! Having just started my 20 years I am happy that we have plenty of opportunity to grow. Innovation is a huge focus for the business, whether it’s the launch of McDelivery, the mobile ordering app, or the new table service or through customer experience leaders, the level of commitment from the business and the franchisee community to continually invest and improve their restaurants, as well as the continued development of the McDonald’s menu offering, is all facilitating this growth.
McDonald’s is a trusted brand that customers are comfortable around and return to. The customer experience is vital in an ever-changing environment and the expectation from a brand such as McDonald’s is extremely high. Continuous improvement and investment in the business is essential to meet customer expectations. Complacency is not an option. Customers ultimately expect value for money and a consistent experience... and of course, they want great food at a good price!
What qualities make a successful franchisee?
Fundamentally you need to be a people person with business acumen and be passionate about what you do and have the requisite drive to achieve success. This, along with a proven track record of previous success, is key. Not necessarily experience of restaurants but of managing people and having the ability to manage large teams. Business acumen is key and experience in this is beneficial. You have to commit to working in the business on a daily basis and want to influence, improve and develop it.
McDonald’s has a great mix in terms of types of franchisees but the one thing that we all have in common is the love of working with people.
How do you bring an iconic brand like McDonald’s to life in your local community?
Community is such an important part of the McDonald’s business model and one I’m extremely passionate about. Amesbury is a relatively small town so it’s important we have a positive impact. Already we’ve sponsored the local under-sevens’ football team kit as well as providing water and fruit at half time. We also managed litter picking for the day at the annual Amesbury Carnival. We’ve been involved with the local school too, interviewing the Year 11 pupils helping them prepare for the world of work. This is so important since many of the crew are either still at school or only recently left and we play a role in developing and mentoring them in this early part of their career. We have also held fun days at the restaurant to raise money and awareness for Ronald McDonald House Charities, including activities like face painting, lucky dips, raffles and cake sales.
What are your plans for the future?
I would love to expand and purchase the right to run more restaurants. McDonald’s has a very collaborative approach when it comes to franchisee growth. The timing is carefully planned and expansion will only happen when it’s right for you and McDonald’s. I joined knowing that I wanted to grow and invest in the business, developing and mentoring along the way.
Would you do anything differently?
Absolutely not! I have loved my first 12 months! We’ve achieved fantastic results through a great team of people absolutely focused on providing an exceptional customer experience. It’s a 20-year commitment and one that you have to enjoy. The recruitment process ensures that you are fully aware of the business requirements and your role within that.
Has a McDonald’s franchise changed your life?
Having had a business previously I was fully aware of the commitment needed for success. But with McDonald’s there is a very balanced approach in terms of achieving a work-life ratio and I have time to spend with family and friends as well as ensuring the business gets 100 per cent attention and input. It’s a great balance and one I’ve strived for many years to achieve. It’s great – I love it!
The high street is a challenging environment – are you concerned about your future?
There’s many challenges today and potentially more to come that we’re not yet aware of. But as a business owner I am a great believer in making the right decisions for the business with the customer at the heart of everything that we do and in taking a long- term approach. Reacting inappropriately could not only negatively impact your business but the brand as a whole. All of us are better than one of us in business and McDonald’s demonstrates this with its franchisee community and collaborative approach from the business with us as franchisees.
Hubs Bakshi took a ‘now or never’ decision. The result was becoming McDonald’s franchisee for Barnet
What’s your career background? How did it enable you to become a franchisee?
Prior to becoming a McDonald’s franchisee, I was the IT Director for a large pan-European shopping centre group overseeing teams in the UK, Germany and Italy. My previous roles meant I interacted with a wide array of functions within business, from finance to human resources to marketing. This, in turn, allowed me to build up a broad set of skills transferable to McDonald’s.
Is experience in the retail/food industry or a previous career in management a must-have?
Not necessarily, but the broader your skillset and experience are, the greater the advantage. Part of your journey to becoming a franchisee entails an intense training programme within the restaurants, working your way through each and every role, as well as classroom-based training via a very capable in-house learning and development team. I found this extremely effective as it allowed me to really understand the business and fill in the operational gaps that I had coming from a completely different industry and background.
How did you find out about the McDonald’s opportunity and why did it appeal?
My dad had several businesses growing up, so I guess I had aspirations to follow in his footsteps from a relatively young age. The trigger for me was turning 40 and thinking ‘it’s now or never!’ A few months later, I attended a McDonald’s presentation and immediately felt this was the right fit for me. The more I peeled away, the more I liked – its values, its tenacity, its vision. McDonald’s gives you the opportunity to be part of a globally recognised brand, but at the same time put your stamp on the business at a local level, contributing towards the communities you serve – this was a huge appeal for me.
How was the process of coming on board, how long did it take?
There are various stages you go through and each one will be shorter or longer depending on your own circumstances and availability. My interview process took approximately a year, shortly followed by the training programme, which I completed in nine months. I’m now the franchisee for Barnet, which I’m very excited about! With a 20-year commitment, this may be your last career move, so I think it’s extremely important that a good deal of due diligence is undertaken from both sides to ensure the relationship is right.
Do you have any advice for others who might be looking to go into business by themselves?
I had a long-established and stable career and really enjoyed what I did, but still felt there was something more out there and didn’t want to look back with a load of ‘what ifs?’ so I took the plunge! If you’re looking for long-term involvement with a globally recognised brand, you’re not shy of hard work and love developing people, then McDonald’s could very well be for you – just do it!
Would you recommend franchising?
Yes. Buying into a well-known franchise affords you an immediate level of presence in your market, which can be advantageous. The franchise arena today is pretty diverse and covers a wide range of industries and sectors, so there are plenty of options to choose from. I would add that any business, including a franchised one, comes with a level of risk and commitment, so it’s really important that you carry out your research.
Would you recommend a McDonald’s franchise, and if so, why?
Absolutely! A McDonald’s franchise removes so many of the challenges compared to starting up on your own. By the same token, the role as a McDonald’s franchisee is so broad – from being a brand ambassador when engaging with the local community to leadership when working with your people to stepping up on the business side to involvement in the marketing strategy and having a firm understanding of the financials.
What qualities do you think are needed to be a successful McDonald’s franchisee?
You have to be a people person. McDonald’s at its core is a people business, from dealing with your customers and local community to leading and mentoring your team. I think if you place your focus on your people, you’ll be on the right path to success.
What opportunities do you see for the future?
The last few years have been extremely busy, from the introduction of new ordering platforms for greater convenience, such as McDelivery and in-store kiosks, all the way to new product lines such as the Signature Collection and McCafé Flat White. Despite the uncertainty in the current economic climate, McDonald’s will continue to innovate. I see huge opportunities ahead not only with our traditional core products, but the introduction of new items too. Digital will also play an important key role through automation and personalisation – watch this space!
How has life changed?
My previous career entailed a considerable level of travel and while this was fun and exciting in the early years, it was starting to take its toll on family life. During my training, I have managed to spend more time with my family and been able to help out with the smaller things – I’ve probably done more school runs over the last year than I have in my life! Having a better work-life balance was one of the key reasons for pursuing a business of my own. Being a McDonald’s franchisee is certainly hard work, but allows me to have an agenda that can work better around my family life too.
How do you bring an iconic brand like McDonald’s to life in your local community?
A great appeal for me wanting to become a McDonald’s franchisee was the opportunity to be involved with charity work, in particular through the franchisees at a community level.
I’ll be looking to forge relationships with local councillors and MPs and other community stakeholders to seek opportunities for collaboration and where I can give back, be it through sponsorships such as grass roots football, charity work or raising the awareness of the great employment prospects McDonald’s has to offer.
Paddy Cusack is the first McDonald’s franchisee in recent years to launch a new restaurant. His store is in Antrim, Northern Ireland
What did you do before opening your own McDonald’s restaurant?
I was a director in a real estate advisory firm but I wanted to have my own business. I’ve a very transferable skillset – after all, business, whether you’re selling property or hamburgers, it’s all about the people and understanding how the business works. What I’ve come to learn is that McDonald’s, more than any other company I’ve ever worked with, is about people and ultimately that’s what makes it tick.
What qualities does a franchisee need?
To have a head for business, certainly, but also to want to work with others, be able to motivate a team when under pressure, get the best out of them, to oversee, inspire and empower a large workforce. I’m lucky that I’ve found some really good people who are working well together. The important quality is your ability to connect with them.
One of the things the training programme gave me was a real appreciation of the culture – so what this or that crew member experiences every day. You can’t lose sight of the basics, because the day you do that, your standards drop and you start to lose customers.
Obviously you need to be hardworking, very well organised and disciplined with your time. The big thing is your ability to manage people and to manage all facets of the business as well… it helps to be process driven. You’re also there to protect and enhance the brand – one that’s firmly established, plus you’re a McDonald’s ambassador in your local community
It’s very much a people- and customer-focused business – more about behaviours than processes. At the end of the day, if you don’t give the customer a good experience, they’re going to go elsewhere. And that’s been drilled into me since day one.
You’re opening a new store in a new location as a new franchisee – a first for the brand in recent times in the UK. How did that happen?
McDonald’s sounded me out about trying it and sourcing an area where there’s an opportunity for expansion. They kept me informed all along the way... In fact, the help and support from McDonald’s has been brilliant – as has that from the wider McDonald’s franchising community. Others have supported with staff and advice and the whole McDonald’s community has been top class! So welcoming and supportive.
Would you recommend it to other people?
Absolutely! My experience has been superb! What’s been reassuring is that the training and development behind the scenes is way above what I expected. That support, infrastructure and detail is why McDonald’s is the current franchisor of the year – they’re incredibly innovative in terms of product development and technology. They’ve become disruptors more than anything – the sales and guest count growth really speaks for itself.
How has life changed for you with McDonald’s and how do you see it going forward?
You have to be engrossed in the business, you do live, eat and breathe it! But it’s definitely a change for the better – it’s given me a whole new lease of life, running my own business with such a reputable brand, plus it’s increased my contact base and helped me raise my profile locally; McDonald’s help you to promote the business through community initiatives and the Ronald McDonald House Charities. It’s all about taking a global brand and making it relevant in your area. We want to support the local community – that’s going to be our strong focus.
Every day is a new challenge but it’s never one that you’re facing alone – you can pick up the phone to six other franchisees or someone at head office. That’s the great thing about it.
The ambition is to expand and grow the business, and when you do that you bring in managers to help run things. I always want to lead from the front, though – I’m that kind of person, I just want to make the best of it!