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QSR Feature
A Champion Program
Thanks to its Olympic Champion Crew program, McDonald’s is getting good press from all angles.
McDonald's Olympic Champion Crew

It all started with a hamburger airlift in 1968 at the Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, France. American athletes were homesick for the Golden Arches, and the delighted fast-food chain readily complied.

Then in 1976, McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) became an official sponsor of the Olympics and 20 years later kicked it up a notch to become a global sponsor. Now, nearly 40 years later, McDonald’s is gearing up for the long trek to Beijing, China, in August for the 2008 Summer Games.

Since 2000, however, the fast-food chain has cleverly used the games as an opportunity to recognize good workmanship from inside its ranks all over the globe by creating the Olympic Champion Crew.

The hand-picked Olympic Champion Crew this year will consist of 1,200 members, 120 whom were picked from 35 countries around the world. It’s a sound concept. Not only are employees goodwill ambassadors for the company and working to sell food in the restaurants, each employee receives an all-expenses-paid trip and accolades for service, making them morale boosters and motivators once back on the regular job.

Hand-Picking the Best

Despite the fact that China is still a socialist country and Beijing has more than double the population of New York City, McDonald’s executive vice president and chief human resource officer, Rich Floersch, doesn’t anticipate any unusual challenges this year, especially with a hand-selected crew.

“We’re going to want to have people who are very strong in the area of customer service and [have] a very strong track record of working well in teams,” Floersch says. “And we have a preference, obviously, for those that have English.”

The goal is to have all 1,200 employees selected by February. The majority of the employees selected will be from Beijing and surrounding areas; the rest will come from around the world. Finding the employees is done at the market level in each eligible country.

“It’s all about working with our McDonald’s-owned stores and our franchisees and finding people that have the best team work, best speed of service, order accuracy, and the best examples of delivering on the customer experience,” says Floersch, noting many markets follow a traditional process of nominating and recommending while others hold contests.

Darlene McKinley, a McDonald’s restaurant manager in Ontario, Canada, was hand-picked in 2006 as part of the Olympic Champion Crew to work in Torin, Italy, for the 2006 Winter Games.

“I was nominated by my restaurant manager and then my office consultant, and it went further and further out of 77,000 crew people that worked for McDonald’s,” says McKinley, an employee for six years. “I like to brag about that, actually.”

McKinley traveled with five other Canadians and worked with crew members from other countries. Employees typically arrive in waves, staying for 10 days at a time and working shifts no longer than six hours each. For Olympic Crew members, McDonald’s provides airfare, room and board, meals, salary, pocket money, plus tickets to events and special excursions. In Beijing, Floersch says, the company is already organizing theme dinners and trips to the Great Wall.

The highlight of the 2006 Torin Games for McKinley was seeing the snowboarding and men’s hockey events and afterward meeting two of the snowboarding athletes.

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