Young at Heart: The McDonald’s franchisees set for success!

Meet the franchisees taking up a McDonald’s franchise with an ambitious eye on future success

There’s a buzz in the air when we visit McDonald’s HQ in North London to meet franchisees from across the experience spectrum – all of whom use the word ‘excitement’ when speaking about their association with the brand. In fact, ‘excitment’ along with ‘passion’ and the confirmation that McDonald’s is a ‘people business’ are the strongest impressions I come away with.There’s no doubting that these franchisees belong to a truly committed and yes, excited, network. So, meet the new generation where even the old guard is very young at heart…    

Bill Liddy has been a McDonald’s franchisee for 25 years with several restaurants. After successfully completing the application process and training, daughter Emma became franchisee of the Gosforth store, formerly within Bill’s operation.

What benefits are there to running a business as a franchisee with a company such as McDonald’s?
I’m trading on their name, and their good reputation. It’s their name above the door that helps to create the kind of business that we do. And it’s the culture, too. We treat our people well, we have a very good, low level of turnover, we’re fair to people, we treat them right – it’s a pleasure to come to work! 

Any words of wisdom for others?
I can recommend an ethical franchisor like McDonald’s, absolutely. This is a time-and-again proven model and, as they say, there’s strength in numbers! McDonald’s is a global name with excellent operating standards and franchisees that are highly trained and motivated.

It requires total dedication and hard work to grow your business and at the same time operate at the highest possible standard in fulfilling customers’ needs. It requires full-time, best efforts from the day you become a franchisee and hands-on involvement throughout. We are primarily a people business – so treat your people right, be caring and look after the employees – without them there’s no business.

You need to be a hard worker definitely. You’ve got to get stuck in. It’s a hands-on operation, you need to be close to the coal face all the time. It’s a complex business, so it needs close attention. Be dedicated, work hard and know how to treat people.

Bill + Emma

Emma Vieira has fulfilled a number of roles within McDonald’s, including now running her own franchise 

No need to ask you how you know about McDonald’s, it’s in the family!
Yes! I started as an assistant manager. Came in and was interviewed just like anybody else. My dad’s always been the kind of guy that would say: “There’s no preferential treatment! You work your way up,” because you need to learn and because it’s quite an in-depth process. I stayed working for McDonald’s in other roles, and though not always in dad’s restaurants, we’ve always planned that one day I’d take on the family business.

In about 2014 we decided it was time to start making in-roads into becoming a franchisee and taking over the family business. Biggest problem was… dad doesn’t want to retire! But we spoke to McDonald’s – they told us: “Bill, you don’t need to retire! Emma can become a franchisee in her own right!” And so, now I’ve been successful in the application process, dad has handed the reins of his Gosforth store over, and now I’m one of the first second-generation or ‘NextGen’ franchisees for McDonald’s in the UK.

Did you go though the same rigorous application process as anyone else?
Absolutely! Probably more! People have this notion that taking over the family business means ‘there’s the keys – away you go!’ But it’s not. The reason McDonald’s is a fantastic business is because of the integrity of its people, and that includes the franchisees. Despite my history with them they still asked: “What makes you want to take this on for the next 20 years? Do you understand what it means to become a franchisee?” We have an obligation to the system to make sure that we do it right – we use the term ‘brand ambassadors’. I understand the part I play in that global business, that each franchisee’s got a responsibility. It’s through the legacy of people like my dad, and his 25 years, that has made the system as strong as it is today. It’s time for me now to step up – my turn! It’s so exciting… I love what I do! 

How does McDonald’s support female franchisees?
McDonald’s have done a lot more to attract female franchisees. The offering is good for us, it gives us the flexibility we need – and we have a lot to offer. Even becoming a parent, I still  managed to be a mum and be able to work – McDonald’s is so flexible.

I think it also sends out a message to women out there: “You know what? We can do this! We are more than capable, we just need to seize the opportunity.” It’s been really lovely to see more women joining the network in the last three to four years than I’ve seen in the last 15 years. And I’m one of them! I feel very proud to represent women in franchising. 

What are your plans for the future?
To grow and to expand my business and become a multi-site operator. And also to give back, doing more in my local community and on the committees that help shape and define McDonald’s. But definitely to expand and develop and to hopefully have some involvement in dad’s business along the way.

Jayne Aspin-Mayne is completing her training before taking on her own McDonald’s business. Jayne formerly held senior management roles in a male-dominated industry.

Tell us a little about yourself…
I was head of production control for Bombardier, who make and overhaul trains. I really enjoyed it! When I became head of production controllers, I still had 25 years left of a career and thought: “What else can I do?” I started looking at franchising, and the best I could see was McDonald’s – also one of the most

difficult to get in, which is good.

Jayne 

I went to an open day [in October 2018], went through the different interviews, and in June 2019 was told that I was good to go to become a registered applicant and embark on the franchisee training process. 

I wanted somewhere customer-facing and McDonald’s appeared an obvious choice to me, and one with a considerable market share. I’ve always been ambitious and I like being part of a big brand where I can do well within it.

I came from an extremely male-dominated industry, so I know what that environment looks like, but with McDonald’s they’ve never made me feel that anything was impossible.

So McDonald’s is a people business?
There’s no greater advocate than us franchisees. I’ve spoken to six of them and they’re all at different stages of their journey – some brand new, some have been franchisees for years, but the message was always the same: it’s all about people – they all still absolutely love what they do, they love the brand and they love their business. It feels like you’re part of a community, which is good, you don’t feel alone in it at all. Hopefully, I’ll be sharing my experience and insights with new franchisees in the future.

Can you share your plans for the future?
I like to think I would be a multi-unit operator, and to be part of the teams that help influence and steer how the business is going. I love to see how the whole machinery of business works. I feel like I’m in just the right place and I felt that right away. From the beginning I felt: “This is what I want, this is what I want more than anything!” I quite enjoyed my old job but I wanted this. I desperately did. Getting the call to tell me I’d been successful as a franchisee applicant was one of the best days of my life! You’ve put your heart and soul into the process and then you have this life-changing moment!

Any advice for budding franchisees?
Just go for it! Take that leap, why not? I was definitely nervous but I’d say: “Don’t regret not doing it!” I’m so pleased I didn’t wait another five or 10 years. I get to start this journey as soon as possible, grow my business as much as I can and hopefully pass that on to my children – that NextGen step that’s possible with McDonald’s.

After a career as a pilot and entrepreneur, Rav Sandhu wanted to work among teams again, and so involvement with a ‘people business’ was an obvious choice. 

What did you do before you embarked on your McDonald’s journey?
I was a pilot in the Royal Air Force. I flew the Hercules, which was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done, and served in Iraq. It was always an ambition of mine to fly and I felt privileged to have served.

I did that for a decade and I retired after an injury. I then went to work with my brother within his food retail franchise. That sparked my interest in working for myself. 

McDonald’s was a very obvious choice. I wanted to work for myself, I knew the opportunities they had; it’s a fascinating business, it keeps innovating. It was something I always kept an eye on, and I could see myself being a part of their future. I went to an Insight day and thought: “This is the right place for me!”

How did you know it was right?
As soon as they started talking about  “hard work”, “dedication”, “be hands on”, “know your people” – it all made sense to me and was something that I was missing. We heard from a number of existing franchisees, too, and straightaway I thought: “Yes! This is the kind of thing I know and love!” But actually, it’s far more exciting, because there’s a lot more going on with McDonald’s. The Insight day made it pretty clear what I was getting into.

Figures show that with a franchise – when compared with setting up a business entirely on your own – there’s, relatively speaking, less risk involved. During applying, you can say openly: “One of the reasons I’m here is to try to align myself with a brand that’s enjoyed success.” That’s the attraction of McDonald’s.

What should future franchisees do?
Talk to people. McDonald’s is very open. They’ll let you go and talk to as many people as you like. Get that feedback, find out what people do day to day, because it is busy – especially at the beginning.

In terms of qualities, you’re going to have to work hard, that’s obvious. Even more important is having people skills. You meet people from all walks of life. You’ve got students, single parents, older people – these are both our employees and our customers. So, if you can get on with people from every background, you’re going to do well here. 

I keep hearing that it’s a people business!
It really is! Some people think: “Yeah, I’ve got it. I can talk to people” But actually, there’s so much more to it. And it covers so many things. You only need to spend a day in a McDonald’s store to know exactly what I’m talking about. Those people skills? Well, every minute you can be speaking to several different people – how do you get that connection with each one of them? That’s what we’re talking about.

And the community aspect – McDonald’s plant themselves in communities. If you do it right, you can have a positive impact on the people who come through the store, as employees and customers. There’s a lot of respect within the company. You need to be interested in people, really, and you can’t fake that. You need to get to know them.

Jonny Nassau is already a veteran of franchising at a relatively young age. Now he’s forging his future long-term plans through franchising with McDonald’s.

Why franchising, and why McDonald’s?
I’ve always been in franchising; I started running my own B2B automotive supplies franchise when I was 23. At the time – as now, with McDonald’s – I was the youngest UKJonny  

franchisee in that network, so I knew the pressure I’d be under, the scrutiny, so I really wanted to push forward and progress. And I was pretty successful! But I really wanted to move into something where I would be working with my own team but with the brand power still behind me. And with that in mind, McDonald’s stood out as one of the biggest names to do this with. 

How are you finding the recruitment and training process so far?
The recruitment process itself is the toughest thing I’ve ever done, and the most enjoyable! You go on an emotional rollercoaster, but you’ve just got to trust McDonald’s and trust you’ll get there in the end if you’re good enough. But you’ve got to be yourself throughout the process as well. Being a people person, I match well with McDonald’s and I believe that’s really what they’re looking for, along with the business acumen required. 

What was it like when McDonald’s said “yes” to you becoming a franchisee?
At every stage, I became more and more engrossed in the process, increasingly attached to the brand, as well as learning so much all the time about the business. The toughest part was the penultimate interview. When they rang me afterwards and told me I was going through to the panel, it’s very emotional because of the different feelings I was going through. At that point you’re really wanting to succeed. Oddly, I found the final interview a lot easier than the one before! And when I got that ‘yes’ call I was going through a whole world of emotions, actually. 

Does the franchise model lend itself to young entrepreneurs?
I got an opportunity to come into franchising originally at 23, and I’m a massive advocate for the young, and want to repay the same faith that I was given and have been given by McDonald’s.

Young people are great at initiating and fulfilling new ideas and they think outside the box, they’re not so structured by ‘this is the way it has to be done’. They just think very differently and that’s why I’d love to be an advocate and give them opportunities. And, of course, we might be the ones in a good position to buy the rights to run stores from current operators. McDonald’s and its people have a really young-at-heart outlook. Bill, for example, can’t see himself ever retiring… The brand just builds and builds and builds that excitement – it captures you and it makes you dream big. They give you the opportunity to do that, which I think is fantastic.

McDonald’s takes everyone as a blank canvas, saying: “Here’s a chance to prove yourself – if you’ve got leadership skills, if we see quality, then there’s a good chance you are going to progress.” Everybody’s unique, nobody’s pre-judged and that’s important. We’ve all been given an opportunity here and it’s one for the taking. And if you want to take it – go after it. 

Any advice for anyone considering franchising with McDonald’s?
You have to be comfortable putting trust in the brand. There’s no point in buying a franchise if you’re not willing to work. It’s not a case of “I’ve bought a franchise, it’ll run itself” – in reality, that’s not going to happen. It’s about guiding the business in the right direction.

Follow the system, it’s proven. It’s very difficult to be successful just creating your own brand – with a franchise, you’ve got the brand there in front of you. Now use that to drive you forward, but implement the ideas that McDonald’s are giving you and you too may benefit from that track record of success. 

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