A unique trend

McDonald’s Netherlands is Europe’s oldest branch of one of the world’s best-known franchises outside of the US and continues to innovate in the dining experience that the company provides

The iconic golden arches of the now globally recognised McDonald’s brand first appeared in the Netherlands during September 1971, when Europe’s first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in Zaandam, near Amsterdam. By 1987 the franchise opened its first ‘McDrive’ Drive-Thru restaurant to huge success and over the subsequent years the McDonald’s brand has grown to represent 246 restaurants throughout the Netherlands. The franchise has grown into region’s market leader in the quick service restaurant (QSR) market.

In 2016 the McDonald’s franchise will celebrate 45 years of serving the Dutch community since its pioneering Zaandam restaurant first opened its doors. Over the years the business has seen several product launches in the McDonalds Netherlands Issue 113 bNetherlands, with the instantly recognisable McDonald’s Happy Meal arriving in 1986 and the introduction of the vegetable burger in 1993. Further to being at the forefront of the introduction of new dining experiences to customers in the country, McDonald’s Netherlands was one of the first companies with its own system of separate collection and recycling of waste.

All of the waste from McDonald’s Netherlands is recycled or recovered with energy recovery, with paper and paperboard collected and processed into napkins and placemats for example. Furthermore, 100 per cent of the cooking oil that is used in the company’s restaurants is collected and ultimately recycled into biofuels. “Being the first country in Europe where McDonald’s chose to export its formula from the United States is something that makes us very proud,” explains General Director of McDonald’s Netherlands, Manu Steijaert. “We are truly a part of the Dutch society and are deeply involved with corporate responsibility initiatives like the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and local sponsoring. Sustainability is highly developed in the Netherlands and following almost three decades of hard work, McDonald’s Netherlands can consider itself a profound company in recycling, reusing and reducing litter.”

Throughout its history, McDonald’s Netherlands has placed great importance of being at the centre of the local neighbourhood and today has over 17,500 employees across its 246 restaurants that serve as many a three million visitors per week. The company operates in accordance with its mission to ‘Think Global, Act Local’ and treats responsibility towards the environment and the wider community as key values. The 76 franchisees involved in McDonald’s Netherlands are highly supportive of local communities and are members of local business and merchant associations. Throughout the business franchisees help to organise clean-up operations to keep the environment clean, take part in employment projects and sponsor local sports clubs. Additionally, many franchisees are also involved as board members at a Ronald McDonald House or participate in the national board of the RMHC, like Franchisee Pieter Honing, who just has been knighted for his social achievements for the RMHC in general.

McDonald’s Netherlands also works to ensure that it actively engages with its customers to further a sense of fun and community spirit. This has led to the development of its ‘Fun to the Max’ concept, which is implemented through the McDonald’s app and other activities. These can include seasonal events that help to make the brand a continued part of day-to-day life within the wider community. “To continue to provide an exciting and fun experience, McDonald’s developed a ‘Present Calendar’ campaign, which is similar to an advent calendar, during December 2015,” Manu exclaims. “Everyday in December we offered a surprise/present for our McDonald’s App users, such as the chance of winning a car, Playstation 4 or scooter. Other activities such as singing a song for example, allowed customers to earn free fries. We currently have over 1.1 million App users and the Present Calendar generated more than 840k activated in App presents.”

During 2015 McDonald’s Netherlands and its Franchisees completed an intensive investment programme across many of its stores, which included extensive redevelopment and expansion activities, as well as the opening of new restaurants. “This investment represents a significant step in the further innovation and modernisation of the McDonald’s brand within the Netherlands,” Manu elaborates. “Four new restaurants have been opened McDonalds Netherlands Issue 113 cduring 2015 and nearly half of the current 246 restaurants have already adopted the platform of integration including a new kitchen and counter lay out, which empowers us to personalise burgers and menus and offer other services.”

The investment into the development of its restaurants coincides with the introduction of the ‘My Burger’ concept that was launched across McDonald’s Netherlands in October 2015. This option is designed to give visitors to McDonald’s restaurants greater freedom in building the burger of their choosing and following successful implementation within the Netherlands, the initiative could travel to McDonald’s stores throughout Europe. “The ‘My Burger’ concept enables customers to personalise their favourite burgers, including the Quarter Pounder, McChicken and Fileto-Fish sandwiches (Royal Fish) and to add further items such as an extra piece of beef, chicken, fish, or bacon, cheese, jalapenos or nacho chips and add extra sauce,” Manu says. “Forty per cent of the customers ordering at the new easy order kiosk personalised their burger, with The Quarter Pounder representing the favourite choice. Most of the time a piece of beef, bacon and cheese were chosen as the extra ingredients.”

During October McDonald’s Netherlands also introduced its new Maestro Burger, which aims to offer a ‘high-end’ burger experience. The Maestro Burger features two 100 per cent angus beef burgers with bacon, naturally aged cheddar cheese, red onion rings, Batavia lettuce, ketchup and wild mustard sauce on a special sesame and poppy seed bun. The new burger has been a huge success for the company and is set to remain as fixed feature in McDonald’s Netherlands restaurants. “McDonald’s introduced the Maestro Burger in October while responding to the burger bar trend of luxury burgers,” Manu explains. “Owing to its success this burger is here to stay, with some 25,000 burgers sold a day since October. In all we have sold 3.8 million Maestro Burgers as of March 2016.”

Core to the success of McDonald’s Netherlands and that of the wider group, is its continued focus on delivering the finest quality foods and ingredients. The company employs a three-pronged approach to ensuring the highest levels of quality and service, which focuses on strong relationships between McDonald’s Netherlands and its franchisees, employees and farmers and suppliers. These relationships will also enable the company to invest in further dining experiences and innovations as the McDonald’s brand continues to grow. “The ‘three-legged stool’ approach is the main driver success of McDonald’s. Besides McDonald’s Nederland on the one hand and its franchisees, suppliers are also key to its success. Relationships that we have built last over ten to twenty years have helped to optimise quality and stimulate innovation,” Manu concludes. “Our strategic goals are aimed on three things, the consumer, the consumer and the consumer. We are consumer obsessed. In order to keep up with the ever-changing world, the only fact that will be the same is that there will be change. Our guests are at the core of the choices we make and we would like to create special moments for our guests, by serving quality products while doing good for the community in the way we operate.”