Some of you will have seen that last week, McDonald’s s released details of its flagship restaurant, which is one of four on the site, for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
London and the UK are beginning to wake up to the fact that the Olympics are just round the corner and we might just allow ourselves some time to take a little national pride in it!
Those responsible have built the stadiums and venues on time, with little or no fuss, and yet we still don’t seem to recognise what an incredible achievement this has been. Just spend a few hours in London to see what the positive effect on tourism the Jubilee and the Olympics has so far been, with the best yet to come.
So back to McDonald’s and their very own specific, Olympic challenge. For a company that feeds so many people, estimated at 47 million A DAY, this one restaurant is certainly showcasing the best of the brand. Not known for their sustainability agenda until relatively recently, the restaurant is designed to be reusable and recyclable after the Games have finished. Easy to say, but believe me, not easy to do. The Company say it puts into one building and in one place some of the best innovations developed by McDonald’s during the last five years. We mustn’t forget, a lot has changed in that 5 years, especially if you recognise that we have been in recession almost that entire period.
As FCSI (Foodservice Consultants Society International) consultants we have listened to many people talk about London 2012 being the most sustainable Games ever hosted. This has been followed through by some of the caterers and especially by McDonald’s, who hold the title role of “Official Restaurant” for the Games, through what they are doing with their buildings and what they are showing their customers.
Equally as many people protest at McDonald’s even being involved in a sporting event. I take a different view. McDonald’s and their food products will not make you put on weight and will not make you unhealthy and ultimately will not kill you. Your choice to eat it 5 times a week, to go to the “supersize” and to use it as a snack bar daily will. Nobody talks about closing distilleries because we have alcohol related problems in teenagers. Every customer that walks into every McDonald’s has a choice, as they do for many other things. The fact that they are good at marketing is not their problem, although more recent thinking suggests it is better to be seen as a more caring provider to the masses.
More to the point, if you serve 47 million people around the world each day, you have a real opportunity to influence eating habits, behaviour patterns and longer term health and nutrition understanding. This is something that the more cynical will say McDonald’s have no intention of doing, but I beg to differ.
The flagship restaurant features many of the innovations that have been part of McDonald’s transformation over the last five years to improve the customer experience and increase the efficiency of our business operations. The menu is broader than provided at other Olympic Games, using their longstanding British supply chain, including the infamous chicken, to deliver their signature eating experience to some of the visitors to the Games. There are healthy items in the menu, with healthy drinks, as well as the usual favourites.
The design took three years of planning and the structure of the restaurant is intended to create a contemporary and welcoming atmosphere for customers, with minimum impact on the environment. Given that it will only operate for a month and half, that commitment needs to be strong on both sides to ensure there really is minimum impact.
After the Games, 75 per cent of the restaurant will be reused and almost everything else will be recycled, with all of the furniture and equipment going to McDonald’s UK restaurant estate around the country. A good message, and one that others could and should follow. Whilst the opening programme for McDonald’s has slowed, they still have about 15 new restaurants planned to open during the next 12 months. The Company has been going through a major restaurant redesign programme, which will be complete by the end of this year, and will reuse every fixture and piece of equipment after the Games.
So, from a consultant perspective, why should we be interested? Most of my FCSI colleagues have expressed the view that McDonald’s should not be at the games. Well, the answer to me is really simple. They should be because they are showcasing innovation and real change. They are showing the world that they are taking things seriously because it matters to their business. I don’t think it is particularly worthy, just that they see the opportunity to take more money, cut costs, and have less of an impact on the environment. The innovations at the flagship Olympic Park restaurant include express lanes with hand-held order taking and contactless payment, energy-efficient kitchen equipment and water-saving technology. All used cooking oil from the restaurant will be recycled into the special blend of biodiesel that fuels more than half of its UK delivery trucks already. These are “real and now” responses to rising energy costs, rising cost of labour and business cost pressures.
I have long said that mankind will only change the way it does things when resources run out or become uneconomic to use. The rising cost of energy had finally got companies to sit up and take notice and design out some of the wasteful and very poor equipment and practices. Like seatbelts in cars, we hardly remember what it was like before legislation and change, but it has made a massive difference. Prepare to see the same with energy consumption.
The central flagship restaurant is one of McDonald’s four Olympic Park restaurants, which have all been designed with sustainability at their core. The “big one” in Stratford will be world’s busiest, but will last only for six weeks. I am sure the irony has not been lost, but McDonald’s have now, well and truly, joined the “pop up” restaurant trend! London abounds with these, but none so “un-cool” as a McDonald’s.
Of the four restaurants, two will be for public use and two will be located in the Athletes’ Village and Media Centre. I have got some weird images of world class athletes tucking into a Big Mac shortly after winning, or even losing, their big event. Medals adorned with BBQ and tomato sauce……… no stop it.
For those of you that like statistics, I have borrowed some data from another article. Located 300m from the Olympic Stadium, it will displace Pushkin Square in Moscow as the world’s busiest McDonald’s. It is expected to serve an estimated 50,000 Big Macs and 180,000 portions of fries – feeding 1,200 customers an hour. That is on an Olympic scale without doubt.
The care that has been taken to ensure most can be recycled is admirable. From Furniture such as tables and high chairs through to kitchen equipment and electric light bulbs, fittings and switches, to timber and air conditioning units, about 5,500 components have been earmarked for reuse. Other items, such as those made of plastics, will be recycled. Even the toilets in the 3,000 square metre restaurant are papered with tile-effect vinyl wallpaper to avoid the wastage of about 30 tonnes of broken tiles after the restaurant closes. Recycling being planned in from day 1, you have got to admire it if nothing else. I wish that more of the people we worked with took this level of care and attention, it would make a real difference.
So, if you go, will you be able to get close to it? The restaurant has been built to seat 1,500 diners – with plenty of seating space outside and on balconies – although it can accommodate up to 2,000 including those waiting to buy food and drink. This should accommodate the demand, but you never know. McDonald’s is aiming to serve all customers within 3 minutes of placing their order! This may be possible, and I hope it is, just so I can go and watch it.
So, what’s my view? I am going to the games, to celebrate what we have done as a country in preparing for, and hosting, this magnificent event. I am also going to understand what LOCOG and the team have fashioned in the way of foodservice, call it professional curiosity if you like. Finally I am also going to see where people chose to spend their money and if the street food looks good. I could get embroiled in the debates about the price of a beer, the restricted product on site, or the inclusion of soft drinks and fast food companies as sponsors, but I am not. I want to be part of it. This show doesn’t come to town very often and I am not going to miss it. I am taking my wife and we are going to experience the hospitality package as well – not the cheapest way to do it, but stylish I have to admit.
What I am also going to do is recognise that companies like McDonald’s serve millions of people a day. Their impact is MASSIVE if they chose to do things differently. Changes in their business practices will cascade through our industry. When McDonald’s change the whole world better sit up and take notice.
Long live the Big Mac.