In October of last year Cos Constantinou became the first McDonald's franchise owner to sign a second 20 year lease in the UK. But it's not always been about Big Macs and Fries for the London based entrepreneur, whose previous business ventures included a shoe manufacturing company and a chain of sports shops.
After years of running a number of successful family businesses in and around the London area, Cos applied to become a McDonald's franchise owner in 1987, impressed by McDonald's impact on the UK market and inspired by its fresh, innovative and professional approach. Following a nine month training programme he took over the McDonald's franchise in Lewisham, South London in October 1988, aged 44.
Since then, Cos has substantially grown his McDonald's franchise, which now includes five thriving McDonald's restaurants in South London. Two years after taking over his first restaurant, Cos expanded his franchise to include the McDonald's restaurant in Deptford. Further success followed, and in 1995 he took charge of his third McDonald's franchise with the acquisition of the Catford store. His franchise portfolio continued to grow in 1999 with the addition of the McDonald's restaurant in Garden Gate, Bromley and the latest restaurant came last year when Cos took over at Cutty Sark.
'It's true that McDonald's has changed a lot since I first came on board as a franchise owner in the late '80s,' says Cos. 'Arguably, it's that ability to change that makes our business so successful. McDonald's capacity to move with the times and respond to customers' changing needs is what marks us out from the competition.'
As a prominent local businessman in South London, Cos enjoys playing an active role in the local community. In particular, he relishes the opportunity to support the development of young people in his area - whether that's in his role as a valued local employer, or part of his duties as a School Governor. 'I've thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in the local community', he reflects. 'Above all else I value the opportunity to help young people fulfil their potential. That's why I sponsor an achievement award at a local primary school. The awards recognise kids who are working hard to improve at school and better themselves. It's a small idea, but if it inspires one young person to keep improving I'll be a happy man.
'Ultimately, there's nothing more rewarding than helping a young person reach their potential and that's one of the reasons why I'm so committed to the business. I'm proud that at McDonald's we offer young people the opportunity to develop and progress. It might sound corny, but watching young people grow and move up through the business is extremely satisfying. A lot of organisations like to claim they offer genuine career progression, but at McDonald's we live that principle every day. Take my management team for example; every single manager in my group of restaurants started out as crew. That's a record of which I'm immensely proud.'
Despite the global footprint and worldwide recognition of the McDonald's brand, Cos's business is still very much a family affair. He brought his son Nick into the business aged only 18. Having worked his way up from crew level, Nick now manages the Bromley restaurant.
With 20 years of experience behind him, it's fair to say that Cos has seen a few changes at McDonald's over the years, but at the age of 64, when others would perhaps consider retirement, he remains committed to the McDonald's business. Encouraged by McDonald's ability to stay relevant to changing consumer tastes, Cos is considering plans to expand his McDonald's franchise. He's considering this safe in the knowledge that one day, when he's ready to stop working, his son will be there to take up the reins.