I was first introduced to the McDonald’s brand in Cologne in 1990. I have very pleasant memories walking in the pouring rain in Cologne umbrella in one hand, and a McDonald’s soft serve ice cream cone in the other.
I was delighted to be hosted by McDonald’s at their headquarters in Sandton for Talent Talks’ first Talent Connect breakfast of 2018. The weather played along – on cue, we woke up to soaking rain in Johannesburg.
Ursula Fear, our MC for the morning described the company as forward-thinking, a net job creator, having an empowering culture and making an impact on people’s lives.
Insights from the CEO
CEO, Greg Solomon reminded attendees that it was International Women’s Day. Solomon explained that just under 60% of employees in McDonald’s SA are women, and over 60% of restaurant managers are women, “not because they are women, but because women were the best business people in their role.”
His role as CEO is to unite the brand around common purpose and clarity of goal. It is about creating a modern and contemporary business. Within this context, the strategy needs clarity and meaning; purpose is also important. “We are going to be different in our thinking. What unites us is values, purpose, and culture.”
Solomon believes leaders need to find someone who is not like themselves, but someone who resonates with the organisation’s purpose.
He explained that the organisation’s Mission needs to be bold, focused and passionate. At times leaders need to be mavericks; they need to leave footprints for others to follow. It is important to recognise that innovation is sometimes about doing the same thing differently.
The first branch of McDonald’s SA opened in Blackheath in 1995.Mc Donald’s brought the concept of drive thru to South Africa; these contribute 57% of McDonald’s business.
McDonald’s SA has introduced many innovations over the years including the McDonald’s breakfast. Its restaurant chains could not serve a traditional English breakfast as this is difficult to eat on the go; they, therefore, introduced a McMuffin, an English muffin, cheese, a poached egg, and chicken. Breakfasts have proved very popular and now account for 12% of their business.
In 2005 the company explored whether it should become a 24/7 operation. McDonald’s consulted 500 employees. Consultations revealed that it would make sense to start a night shift at 22h00. The late evening and early morning trade now accounts for 5% of their business.
McDonald’s is widely regarded as an employer of choice. McDonald’s SA was rated the Top Company to work for from 2009 to 2012.
Expansion has been rapid. By 2011, there were 150 McDonald’s outlets in South Africa, and by 2014, McDonald’s was serving eight million customers every month in South Africa. McDonald’s continues to experience rapid growth and has reached the 250 restaurant mark. Growth is based on a solid base of talent, infrastructure and IT. Solomon emphasised the need to strike a balance between persistence and patience.
In 2014/2015 the decision was taken to be more energy efficient; this required a change in the talented needed within the business.
Solomon explained that every time that the business changes by a factor of ten, the underlying pillars need to change.
Many young South Africans believe a university education is a prerequisite for career success. Solomon challenged this view: “Why go to university when you can come to McDonald’s?” There are two value propositions – university and the university-of-life. All you need to work at McDonald’s is a matric.
McDonald’s SA has four training centres. There are many success stories of staff who have worked very hard and completed NQF level, 3, 4, or 5 qualifications.
Solomon concedes that it is inevitable that talent leaves the organisation; he is very proud of the fact that McDonald’s boasts one of the lowest staff turnover rates within the industry.
The company continues to innovate and identified the need to introduce cappuccinos; this is now a R150 million business, and the McDonald’s coffee brand is ranked among the top three in the country. The company introduced its Uber business model twelve months ago; this will soon be a R200m per year business.
Ninety days ago the group launched a new app; the app is about being able to communicate nimbly with 115 000 employees in 300 restaurants.
Chief Marketing Officer, Daniel Padiachy provided some marketing insights. In 2012 McDonald’s came up with “I’m lovin’ it.” McDonald’s is about “providing little moments of loving.”
“We are about little moments every day. We tried to understand as a brand what we stand for. From a brand perspective, we allow little moments of loving in consumers’ lives. You don’t want for big moments to tell someone you love them. Life happens in these moments,” he explained.
McDonald’s SA wanted to create a locally relevant brand, a brand which straddled LSMs. They looked internally –“Life isn’t a big thing, it is a thousand little things.”
McDonald’s SA has been a brave brand. Last year, McDonald’s SA dropped the price of its biggest selling sandwich, by 20%, to demonstrate value to customers at a time when the country was in recession. Eighteen months ago McDonald’s introduced McDonald’s Supremes “crammed full of flavour.” In celebration of ease and convenience, the company has also introduced Uber eats. McDonald’s will soon be launching a new campaign “know our food.” The company will tell consumers about its supply chain and how food is prepared. The company has also introduced a McDonald’s Share Box – family meals sorted.
Amplifying trust is encapsulated in its sponsorship of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), an independent non-profit organisation.
Executive director Human Capital, Brigitte da Gama explained that McDonald’s global had appointed a new CEO. McDonald’s SA needed to align its people to an appropriate culture. Da Gama explained that “culture offers scale and impact across thousands of employees.” Mc Donald’s has been able to get its employees aligned to the organisational culture in a way that is lively and fun, and also, uniquely South African.
The company launched a logo, “Kulcha Club,” as its internal branding. McDonald’s held localised conversations on South African culture with 250 people in a room; conversations were then held with restaurant managers.
There are five culture champions in each restaurant. Each restaurant has its own interpretation of culture Fridays. Employees dress up in a way that highlights the theme.
The three cultural pillars in South Africa include: customers obsessed, better together and committed to lead. These pillars provide a better customer experience.
McDonald’s employs two million people globally; South Africa is recognised as one of the top countries globally in terms of the deployment of its culture.
In 2018 McDonald’s will continue holding its conversations around culture. The McDonald’s App, which will be deployed between May to July will reinforce culture and values. Crew members will be able to recognise the contribution of others and award points; points will be converted to cash. The App will also support videos; McDonald’s plans to launch eight videos.
The company plans to host winning culture workshops in the regional centres for restaurant managers. It also plans to create a virtual choir. Crew rallies will be held in September. These events will culminate in concerts which with some of the top artists in the country performing.