McDonald’s entering new phase, says CEO


BY SCHAVE DE ROZARIO

A new phase is shaping up at McDonald’s, famous for its Big Mac worldwide. The new buzz words, said CEO and country manager Robert Beard, will be quality and speed. 

Also part of the aggressive plans will be the focus on getting nearer to the customer. 

“One of our priorities now is the quality and speed in service. We want to make sure our customers are satisfied and their needs met. 

Robert Beard with the McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald

“This is the reason for the new concept at our Sri Damansara store. We have changed the seating with upholstery chairs, created specific sections for smokers, a children's section and a special area for parties,'' he told StarBiz. More stores will follow suit. Some of our drive-thru stores have even extended to serve 24 hours. 

“We are also studying ways to improve the home delivery service. At present, a customer has to remember the store phone number within the vicinity of his home. “Soon, there will be a call service centre and new ways are being developed to serve its food in a faster time and within the quality freshness time frame,” Beard said. 

Changes coming up in the menu include fruit juices and even the possibility of a McCafe store serving light meals and freshly roasted coffee.  

McDonald's also is looking at ways to improve its menu to fit into a healthy lifestyle. One thing is for sure, hotcakes for breakfast is coming our way. 

McDonald's is also considering the Internet as an avenue for sales. Presently, the market in Egypt brings in an average of 25% to 30% of sales via the Internet. This idea is not too far-fetched for McDonald's in Malaysia. On top of that, Beard is looking at a vibrant franchisee system that will help mould local entrepreneurs as well as further improve sales. 

He hopes to strengthen the present tagline used by McDonald's Malaysia “Live in Harmony... eat at McD” and make it into a truly Malaysian theme. To him, that tagline captures the very heart of the Malaysian spirit consisting of the harmony of the various ethnic groups of people from different walks of life and ages.  

“That is what McDonald's is all about,” said Beard. 

Golden Arches Restaurant Sdn Bhd, the local operator of McDonald's, has taken an aggressive step geared towards franchising, a move which, he said, would make McDonald's “even more Malaysian.” 

“McDonald's is a big company and we need to start creating an opportunity for new entrepreneurs. We want Malaysians to come forward and invest in it. We know what the profitability is and we will help franchisees in every way we can,” says Beard.  

Beard believes that local franchisees will do a much better job overall because it is their own investment and they would play a bigger part in the community as they are sensitive to the community's needs. “A corporate manager may do his duty and get his salary. He cares but he may care not as much. A franchisee would do much more. He would position himself in the community as he intends to gain acceptance by the community.” 

McDonald's has 250 stores in Malaysia and it is growing at a rate of 15 to 25 stores annually. This is a good opportunity for franchisees to invest. McDonald's will franchise most of its existing stores except for a good number of stores in the Klang Valley and Johor Baru. 

“The Klang Valley stores have a lot of competition. It has a high cost in real estate and it would be too demanding for a franchisee to handle. We also have to maintain our existing business and keep it growing. In some countries, 75% of stores are franchised and it is possible that this can happen here,” he said. 

According to the franchise model, franchisees and Golden Arches will set a financial arrangement whereby, at the end of the day, the franchisee will keep the profit and pay Golden Arches the service fee and royalties. McDonald's believes that the franchisee must make the money first before McDonald's makes the profit. “The company is willing to make that risk as their business is key to us,” he said. 

The franchisee also need not fret in his or her investment, as McDonald's will take on an intense research prior to opening any store. A research and negotiating team will study and earmark a place at least three years before any major decision is made. They will also consider that new stores would not infringe into other existing stores' business volume like the few stores located in the Chinatown area in Kuala Lumpur.  

McDonald's Malaysia also takes pride in being the first fast-food restaurant to receive the halal certification. Everything in McDonald's is halal, from the sesame seeds in the food to the gloves and cleaning compounds. It has even made all its suppliers strictly adhere to the same halal standards. 

“We have become known in the McDonald's circuit to strictly follow the halal standards. One of the franchisees in Australia that caters to a Muslim community purchases all his products from Malaysia. Some of our products are even exported to the Middle-East. This truly benefits our suppliers and is a real boost to our operations in Malaysia,” he said. 

Another aspect that McDonald's seldom speaks of is its commitment to the community. The Ronald McDonald House in Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia ensures the needs of families of children suffering from life threatening illnesses are well cared for. The education scholarship programme is continuously expanding and much more are done behind the scenes.  

McDonald's is pretty young in Malaysia compared to most countries but its commitment to the community has reached into many people's hearts. “Our role in the community is being a good citizen. We give back to the community what we take out. After all, we are a part of the community and we should learn to live in harmony,” says Beard. 

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