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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Jill McDonald, McDonald's UK

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Jill McDonald, McDonald's UK

Overall ranking: 8 (NEW ENTRY)

Restaurant ranking: 2 (NEW ENTRY)

Jill McDonald - Snapshot

Jill McDonald is chief executive and president of McDonald's UK and president, northern division, McDonald's Europe. She is responsible for the management of the UK market, and governance of the Northern Division of McDonald's Europe. Despite her name, she has no family link with the US-owned McDonald's empire. In the UK, the 1,194 McDonald's restaurants now feed 2.5 million customers every day.

Jill McDonald - Career guide

Jill McDonald holds a first-class business studies degree and kick-started her career as a graduate trainee at Colgate Palmolive, rising to a senior marketing role.

In 1990, she moved to British Airways as a brand manager where she held a number of senior marketing positions in the UK and overseas.

After 16 years with British Airways, she joined McDonald's in 2006 as chief marketing officer UK & northern division . Her remit included marketing, product development, customer innovation, business strategy and insight and leadership of McDonald's Olympic 2012 sponsorship in the UK.

She was promoted to chief executive of the UK business in August 2010 when incumbent Steve Easterbrook was given the newly created position of executive vice-president and global chief brand officer, responsible for marketing, menu innovation, consumer insights and other global brand assets.

McDonald has been instrumental in McDonald's being named the presenting partner for volunteering at the London Olympic Games, during which the company will help to recruit and train 70,000 volunteers.

In June 2008, she was voted "Marketer of the Year" by the Marketing Society.

McDonald clearly has an impeccable track record, which has been recognized by her inclusion in the inaugral Women 1st Top 100 list of most influential women.

She certainly proved herself during some of the company's toughest years. During her time at McDonald's the company has become reviled by health groups and charities for selling artery-clogging food. The campaign began working and McDonald's lost sales and was forced to close restaurants.

But while criticism of the chain took its toll, it also galvanized action and McDonald proved herself in helping to spearhead the revival: "The media were giving us a hard time and customers weren't getting a good range of food and were walking into restaurants that were looking out of date."

The US-owned company subsequently made changes to its menu by launching salads and fruit in bags, and spent £225m revamping restaurants. Sales in the UK have now grown every quarter for nearly five years.

No wonder, then, that she stands up to the health vigilante. McDonald says she is proud her two young sons tuck into a McDonald's a couple of times a week.

She lists among the company's achievements the fact they have become more open and transparent as a business by printing nutritional information on packaging, as well as reducing salt and sugar in some popular children's food.

She certainly is not afraid of courting controversy. In May 2011, she challenged the snobbery surrounding a "McJob" at a conference and claimed school leavers would be better off getting jobs in burger bars than going to university. McDonald said that 16,000 of their British staff are studying for nationally recognised qualifications on courses organised by the employer, which has an Ofsted rating.

"We now see the equivalent of six full classes gain adult certificates in maths and English every week and we've now awarded 3,000 Level 2 Apprenticeships in hospitality."
She added: "The truth is that as the worlds of business and education move ever closer, companies like ours are becoming educators as well as employers."

McDonald is now heading a company that, love it or hate it, serves two million customers a day and sees 70% of the British population go through its doors at least once a year.
One of her first jobs is to unveil McDonald's latest campaign to update its iconic "I'm lovin' it".

Hospitality shines on First Women shortlist >>


Women 1st's Top 100 Women in Hospitality and Leisure >>

Jill McDonald interview: McDonald's boss on Big Macs and taking her kids to the fast food chain >>

McDonald's website >>

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