Best small company sponsored by Development Board for Rural Wales.
Standardisation is something of a religion at McDonald's. A Big Mac or doughnut should look and taste the same in Madrid as in Manchester or Milan. The fast-food chain is famous for other virtues, too, which it instils into every new employee who steps through the door: such as quality, service, cleanliness. So much is common knowledge. Less widely known is the fact that every McDonald's doughnut or fruit pie consumed anywhere in Europe was made at Kitchen Range's Peterborough plant - which is clearly dedicated to the same values as its big customer. The business was founded 23 years ago, by managing director Simon Lebus's father, shortly before McDonald's first landed in the eastern hemisphere. Today there are more than 2,000 McDonald's distributed across Europe. Keeping them supplied with doughnuts and fruit pies accounts for about 45% of revenues at Kitchen Range. In 1991 production for McDonald's was transferred to the long, thin, custom-built factory on a Peterborough trading estate, where two extended lines occupy most of the building. It is all very clean and well equipped. Unusually for the food industry, the plant even has a well set-up engineering workshop, and has just replaced all the gearboxes on its conveyors in the name of improved reliability.
In spite of the importance of the connection, contractual arrangements between the parties are remarkably relaxed. Indeed, Lebus explains, 'the way McDonald's operates means that there isn't actually a contract as such'. Close liaison and mutual dependence, plus occasional 'suggestions' from McDonald's, are what keep the relationship going. When Kitchen Range installed its first apple pie line, back in the 1970s, the US supplier of apple pies - at McDonald's suggestion - sent over staff to help with the commissioning in order to ensure consistent quality. (Among other things, it was necessary to locate Italian and French sources of the frozen chipped apples that are extruded into each sausage-roll-like pie: English apples pulp too readily, it seems.) Continuing the tradition, Kitchen Range - under similar prompting - has lately been assisting a Russian supplier to McDonald's to set up in Moscow.