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QSR Feature
McDonald’s Down Under
In an exclusive QSR interview, McDonald’s Australia’s leadership tells how the company survived the recession by offering restaurant space and menu options that were relevant and convenient to the everyday Aussie.

The last seven years for U.S. quick serves have been a rollercoaster, to say the least. Economic fortune and rising sales peaked in 2007 before the bottom dropped out with the recession in 2008.

But the last seven years for McDonald’s Australia, vice president and director of communications Kristene Mullen says, have been an “amazing journey.”

“McDonald’s Australia is doing very well in these tough economic times, and I think it’s because of a combination of a number of things,” Mullen says.

“We’re always trying to improve our offerings to our customers, so we have to stay relevant, we have to stay front of mind, we have to make sure we’re providing a service to our customers that they feel comfortable with and that encourages them to keep coming to visit us.”

Though the brand has fed Aussies since the country’s first McDonald’s opened in Sydney in 1971, Mullen says the last seven years have been particularly significant as the chain has adopted sweeping changes to keep up with evolving customer demand.

Mullen says the company did some research and discovered that customers of McDonald’s in Australia wanted more choice, convenience, and comfort in the chain’s restaurants. McDonald’s answered the call with menu innovation, restaurant renovations, and the expansion of McCafé, a concept developed in 1993 in the Land Down Under that has made its way stateside recently.

“There’s a really strong coffee culture here in Australia,” Mullen says. “People often go to a café to catch up with friends or read the newspaper or just get away from the hustle and the bustle of the real world. Obviously, McDonald’s saw that there was a need to incorporate that into our business.”

Of the 808 McDonald’s restaurants in Australia, 608 of them now include an attached coffee shop, making McDonald’s the largest coffee chain in Australia.

The McCafé shops feature baked goods such as croissants, apple strudels, and cupcakes, to go along with Rain Forest Alliance coffee drinks.

“McCafé is still part of the McDonald’s footprint, but it brings in a different type of customer,” Mullen says, noting that free WiFi brings in a lot of businessmen, while young mothers often spend time there so the children have a place to play. “It’s a big focus for us, and has been for a long time.”

Menu innovations at McDonald’s Australia in the last seven years have been concentrated on healthy eating.

In February 2003, at the beginning of McDonald’s Australia’s seven-year facelift, the brand introduced an Alternative Happy Meal, which included a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, fruit, and orange juice as opposed to the typical burger, fries, and soda. In September of that year, the Salads Plus line was launched, which included salads with less than 10 grams of fat per serving.

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