McDonald’s attracts a lot of attention — mostly negative — from nutrition experts and anti-globalisation types. How do you handle these pressures and keep yourself motivated?
Actually, I find it very motivating to work for a pre-eminent brand. Everybody knows it. You get lots of feedback, not all necessarily positive but we have all the arguments to counter that. So it’s really not difficult at all. It comes with the price of leadership.
What do you think about books and films like Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me? Are they a distraction or are they a good way of gauging public and customer sentiment and useful for informing your business strategy?
The book and the movie are about very serious issues but I don’t know that either one of those projects actually triggered the issues or moved them any closer to a solution. And they’re not new topics — we already know they’re important things. Our strategies are based on the things that are important to our customers and our strategies really haven’t changed since before those things came out so they really don’t impact on us at all.
McDonald’s has a strong tradition of nurturing future senior executives from inside the company. Did you ever flip burgers when you were starting out with the group?
I didn’t start in operations. I joined Ernst & Young in the US after I graduated from university and then I’ve been with McDonald’s for 15 years. So my opportunity to work in the restaurants hasn’t involved being day-to-day crew or a manager. But I do spend a portion of my time in restaurants — in all the countries I visit — because it’s a great way to find out what the issues are for managers and the crew. In this particular restaurant, they’re probably sick of seeing me because my office is just upstairs so I’m down here every day.
It’s mainly to check in with the employees and find out what’s going on, because I have to say, when I get behind the counter I’m not the most helpful person back there — I’d probably just get in their way. Because I’m down here a lot, I have conversations with other customers as well. Everybody you meet is willing to give you their opinion of McDonald’s, so you get to know how the man on the street is thinking and feeling about us.
Do you eat McDonald’s food yourself? What’s your favourite meal?
I’m one of the heaviest users of this restaurant. I eat lunch down here most days because it’s very convenient and my absolutely favourite sandwich is the double cheeseburger.