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‘Loyalty is a significant business opportunity’

Paul Dragan, left, general manager of Premier Restaurants Malta, and Victor Tedesco, managing director of Premier Capital, the Developmental Licencee for McDonald’s in Malta, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania.

Paul Dragan, left, general manager of Premier Restaurants Malta, and Victor Tedesco, managing director of Premier Capital, the Developmental Licencee for McDonald’s in Malta, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania.

Paul Dragan, general manager of Premier Restaurants Malta, and Victor Tedesco, managing director of Premier Capital, the Developmental Licencee for McDonald’s in Malta, Greece, Romania and the Baltic States, speak to Anthony Manduca about the progress of and plans for the brand.

McDonald’s continues to be the undisputed leader of the quick service restaurant sector in Malta, with more than half of the market share, Paul Dragan points out.

“Our data for the second quarter of the year shows that we have grown our share yet again, and the scores for taste, quality, and customer service are rising. Our performance in Malta this year has been positively impacted by the campaign celebrating 50 years of the Big Mac, some very attractive promotions and incentives, and a renewed strategy to increase our customer-centricity.

“We have continued to reduce complexity to make restaurant life as straightforward as is possible. We do this by simplifying the menu and evolving the experience to win back customers, retain customers with new offerings and enhancing the loyalty of our casual customers. Loyalty, in itself, is a significant business opportunity,” he says.

Mr Dragan says McDonald’s is a rapidly evolving business and customers all over the world are experiencing the innovation and enhanced service being deployed across store networks to build a better McDonald’s.

“Malta too has embraced this accelerator programme designed to ramp up growth momentum through digitisation, mobile functionality and a new approach to service both in stores and outside.

“Four of our stores in Malta feature front of house self-ordering kiosks where customers may order and pay for their meals. Customers visiting stores with self-ordering kiosks will have noticed a significant reduction in waiting time. We are working hard to convert more restaurants in Malta to adopt this technology and these new processes.”

He says that over the past few weeks McDonald’s piloted a table service in its Għargħur restaurant and the customer response has been “outstanding”.  “Infrared technology allows staff to locate the customers’ location in seconds, so the process is uncomplicated and service delivery is high. Our plan is to introduce table service in all of our stores in Malta and Gozo.”

He adds: “Even earlier than that, our guests will experience heightened hospitality in stores as Guest Experience Leaders greet them in the restaurant lobby to tend to their requirements on that particular visit. The Guest Experience Leader is one of the latest additions to the McDonald’s crew structure and the role is designed to host guests, help them place their order at the self-ordering kiosks, guide them to navigate the store, run them through initiatives and promotions, surprise our younger guests and so much more.”

He says that next year the plan is to deploy McDonald’s Global Mobile Application in Malta, which will allow customers easier access to the menu and to information on promotions and loyalty programmes, incentives, and eventually to place orders and payments through their mobile device.

Another new initiative in the pipeline is McDelivery, a McDonald’s service that delivers food to the customer’s door and which is available in the US, Asia, Middle East and Latin America.

“McDelivery will revolutionise the McDonald’s experience in Malta. Our challenge is to identify the right partner with which to embark on McDelivery locally. Maintaining food quality and reducing waiting time as much as possible are our topmost priorities and we will launch the service as soon as we are confident we can meet customer expectations,” he says.

Mr Dragan points out that McDonald’s 600 crew at nine restaurants in Malta and Gozo together serve an average 20,000 customers every day. Guests in Malta, he points out, like to customise their sandwiches: close to half of the orders are what they label ‘grill orders’ in which ingredients are added or removed.

Items from the core menu – the Big Mac and the Big Tasty – are firm favourites with guests in Malta, while value meals are favoured by very regular customers. He says the Premium sandwiches in the Maestro range have performed exceptionally well since they were introduced locally in 2017 “and we will continue to introduce variety in this segment of the menu”.

He says that it is a source of immense pride that the McCafe operation in Malta is one of the best performers in Europe.

“Our seven McCafes are significant sales drivers for the restaurant in which they sit. Coffee resonates with guests in Malta, which is why we carefully select the very best coffee varieties from our Italian suppliers and offer it to our guests at great value.”

The McCafe operation in Malta is one of the best performers in Europe

Mr Dragan says that development is crucial to the company’s growth and they are constantly searching for strategic locations where new stores can be developed feasibly.

“The most desirable locations for us are those which allow us to position stores to serve specific catchment populations and be easily accessible by the community.

“Of course, the footprint must accommodate as many, if not all, the elements and convenience that make up the McDonald’s experience – McDrive, McCafe, parking facilities, open-air spaces and the requisite square metres to house McDonald’s most modern kitchen configuration, a birthday party room, and seat a good number of guests.

“It’s a tall order but we are committed to direct investment towards locations that present growth opportunities for the business and the brand in Malta, and of course create new job opportunities for various age groups.”

Looking at the overseas markets Victor Tedesco explains that Premier Capital operates 130 stores in the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia), Greece and Romania.

“All these markets experienced double digit growth last year. Romania, our largest market with 72 restaurants, is by far the strongest contributor to our international McDonald’s business. Romania boasts a highly competitive market and consistently rising prosperity – there is considerable scope for growth. We plan to open eight new stores in the market over the next few months,” Mr Tedesco says.

“Every market we operate in has its own economic landscape and its own potential to tap. We believe we can grow further in the Baltics where we currently operate 35 restaurants. Lithuania can be served by additional restaurants, given the size of the country, and we are preparing to open our 14th restaurant there in just a few weeks.

“Our team in Greece has done an exceptional job, growing the business by 16 per cent in 2017, in a very challenging business environment. Greece is healing economically, and new brands are entering the market. We have always maintained our determination to invest in Greece, to grow our network there and create employment opportunities. At the moment, we have three new stores in the pipeline which will take us to 26.”

Mr Tedesco says the company’s latest investment round in the business kicked off in 2015 with a commitment to invest €155 million to grow to 202 restaurants across their markets by 2025 and increase their team from 7,500 to 10,000 people.

“Our markets are operated by strong management teams which are led by remarkable leaders with many, many years of experience of the McDonald’s system. These are people who understand their markets’ signals, know where customer opportunities are, and whose results are consistent enough to enable them to think – and plan – on a larger scale. In turn, our country managers are supported by the leadership team at Premier Capital, many of whom have been in the McDonald’s business for more than 20 years.”

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