What next for McDonald's?

LONG READ: Changing consumer tastes and rival chains are forcing the first fast food giant to reinvent itself.

by Matthew Gwyther

McDonald's - the original food industry disruptor - recently received the ultimate US accolade: a Hollywood film about its history. The Founder - starring Michael Keaton as the hard-driving, erstwhile paper cup salesman Ray Kroc - didn't do big box office and met with mixed reviews. Using Kroc's no nonsense autobiography Grinding It Out as source material, the movie finishes with Kroc in 1970 doing up his bow tie while practising a speech to be delivered in front of the then California governor, Ronald Reagan. 'Nothing in the world can take the place of good old persistence,' Kroc insists. 'Talent won't. Nothing's more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius won't; unrecognised genius is practically a cliche. Education won't; the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all powerful.'

Although it didn't invent fast food, McDonald's is the industry godfather and changed the eating habits of a nation. And it has held this position for decades through dogged determination not to mention making the most of its bulk. It is the largest restaurant chain in the world by capitalisation - 35,000 locations in 119 countries - just edging out Starbucks. The UK is its sixth largest market - behind even France - but its British business is high margin and, more importantly, still growing.

Since its arrival in the UK back in 1974, McDonald's has woven itself into our social fabric and now has 1,250 restaurants. Where the business back home in the States has stumbled, McDonald's in the UK has delivered 11 years of consistent quarterly growth now turning over around £1.5bn. This so impressed the board in Chicago that they took the Brit CEO Steve Easterbrook and installed him as global boss to administer some Limey medicine to the ailing 14,000 odd branches on the home turf.

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