Interview with McDonald's Germany boss

"My Everyday McDonald's Moment."

Mario Federico has been in charge of McDonald's Germany since August 2021.
McDonald’s Deutschland LLC
Mario Federico has been in charge of McDonald's Germany since August 2021.

Mario Federico (58) has been leading McDonald's Germany as CEO since August 1, 2021. Foodservice spoke with the native Italian about the medium-term plans for the company.

You have been in the McDonald's business for over 20 years. What is it about the brand that fascinates you?
Mario Federico: McDonald's is more than a restaurant for me. It's a way of life. A place where people from all different backgrounds come together. Our brand is an integral part of the society in which we live. And our restaurants are a part of the neighborhood. What fascinates me the most are the people behind McDonald's who make sure that our guests experience that special feel-good moment every day: our franchisees, our suppliers and, of course, our great crew. Only when this team works perfectly together can we make our guests happy and ensure a top guest experience.

This year marks 50 years of McDonald's in Germany. But there was no celebration. Does that hurt you?
Yes, unfortunately sometimes things turn out differently than we plan. I've only been in the German market as CEO for a few months - but it would have been nice to celebrate my new job right away with the market's 50th anniversary. And not only with our guests, but also with our franchisees, suppliers and the entire team behind the McDonald's brand in Germany. Unfortunately, that is not (yet) possible. But honestly: I prefer to look ahead and look forward to the next round birthday!

Normally, you like to use such an occasion to expand sales and image through marketing campaigns. Will there still be promotions?
Yes, there will be. Our guests can look forward to great offers, especially in our app. In addition, we have something very special planned. But I can't reveal anything about that at this point.

In the Covid year 2020, McDonald's Germany only lost around ten percent of the turnover of the pre-Covid year with around 3.2 billion euros - do you see any other reasons for this excellent result besides the perfect infrastructure provided by the Drives?
McDonald's is characterized above all by its flexibility - although we are such a large company, we always manage to adapt to new circumstances. This is another reason why we can look back on such a long and successful history. Our courage and ability to improvise were challenged by Corona. The pandemic has made us focus even more strongly on the essential values and the core of our daily activities.

On the one hand, this is the issue of QSS - quality, service and cleanliness. The last point in particular was very decisive. Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, in addition to the existing hygiene standards, we have ensured with a comprehensive concept under the title "Safe together" that guests could feel safe with us even in times of a pandemic.

A second important point was our focus on the "three Ds": With the Drive and our McDelivery service, we have specifically strengthened the direct points of contact with our guests since last year. And as part of the third D - Digital - the technological infrastructure was expanded to enable our offers to be used easily and effectively even in a non-contact environment. Since we already relied heavily on these "three Ds" before Corona, we were then able to react with a corresponding speed during the pandemic.

The industry is currently groaning under employee pressure. There are simply not enough people willing to work in the hospitality industry. What does that look like in your house? And what is the silver bullet?
I spent a lot of time in the restaurants during my first weeks as head of Germany. And that showed me again impressively: McDonald's is a people business! We are only as good as the people we employ. They ensure a successful guest experience. That's why our most important concern was to keep as many of our well-established teams in the restaurants as possible, even during the crisis.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Federal Association for System Catering together with the Food and Catering Union therefore included a supplementary agreement for the existing collective wage agreement at short notice to enable the introduction of short-time work. In order to cushion the economic consequences for the employees, we increased the short-time allowance to 90 percent of the net wage. This certainly helped us to cope better with the re-start. Unfortunately, however, we are not (yet) able to cover the entire demand.

In order to continue to attract the best colleagues to our restaurants, I have made this a top priority. I believe we can focus even more on those who are already doing a great job and enjoy working at McDonald's. The strong team behind the strong brand. The strong team behind the strong brand.

With the conversion of almost all of its approximately 1,400 branches to order terminals and the introduction of table service, McDonald's has once again proven its frontrunner role in German system gastronomy - what comes next?
We have very high standards for everything we do. Top products in top quality. Top employees and a top customer experience. And all of this in a restaurant environment that is state of the art.
In everything we do, we listen closely to what our guests want. Currently, for example, this includes the modernization of our Drive experience and the further expansion of our own delivery fleet. Along with digital, these are the strong growth areas we are focusing on in the restaurant space.

Equally, our guests' need for sustainable sourcing or innovative packaging concepts is growing. But what the future holds exactly, I understandably can't tell you today. But I can tell you that McDonald's will be part of it.

What does that mean exactly? What role do you think sustainability will play in the near future?
To come straight to the point: a crucial one! How can a company survive in the future if it doesn't think about tomorrow today? At the same time, we also see that this issue is becoming increasingly important to our guests.

My goal is therefore to approach sustainability 360 degrees - both internally with our franchisees and suppliers as well as externally and thus tangibly for our guests. We have laid the foundation for this within the framework of our global sustainability strategy. We are already working towards goals in various areas, such as the expansion of sustainably produced beef, significantCO2 reductions, and our goal of using only packaging from recycled, certified, or renewable sources by 2025. Currently, for example, we are testing drinks and ice cream in returnable cups for the first time in some of our restaurants. These are the things that are already underway. Beyond that, I'm looking at all areas right now and want to understand exactly where there is potential to do better.

Has the vegetarian offer significantly changed the customer structure? What role does plant-based play?
McDonald's is a brand that democratizes trends. For some time now, we've seen people trying to eat less meat. With a vegan offering, we want to offer the growing number of flexitarians an alternative to the traditional meat burgers in our restaurant - with the genuine McDonald's taste, of course.

I have also received a lot of positive feedback about our Fresh Vegan TS. But what I also see: The majority of our guests still want to eat meat at our restaurant. That's why, so far, the vegetarian/vegan offerings on our menu are proportionately smaller than the meat-based offerings. But it wouldn't be in the spirit of our agile brand if we didn't keep taking a close look at the topic of alternative proteins.

How often do you visit McDonald's restaurants? And what do you try there?
You won't believe this, but I'm actually at McDonald's every morning. My favorite is a cappuccino with a croissant or cornetto - as I would call it if I were Italian. Sometimes it may also be an Egg McMuffin. I think it's important to know what's going on in the restaurants, to feel the atmosphere and to get into conversation with the colleagues. If you don't know the basis, you can't lead the team. That's why I allow myself this everyday McDonald's moment.