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The Caterer

Peter Beresford

12 May 2005
Peter Beresford

Overall ranking: 13

Restaurateurs ranking: 2

Snapshot

Peter Beresford is the chairman and chief executive officer of McDonald's UK, the burger-based fast-food giant. McDonald's is the UK's largest restaurant chain and serves more than 2.5 million customers a day through its 1,249 outlets, of which 38% are franchised and 737 are drive-thru. The group employs 73,000 staff, including franchisees.

Career guide

Beresford was born in Canada in 1951. After gaining a bachelors degree in economics, he worked as a trainee ad manager for Toyota Canada before joining McDonald's Canada as advertising manager when the division had just 100 stores.

During this time, he helped create McDonald's Russia, opening its first outlet in Moscow in 1990. He rose to become chief marketing officer and senior vice-president of the Canadian subsidiary in 1992 and was promoted to executive vice-president in 1992.

In September 2003, Beresford became executive vice president and board member of McDonald's Japan. A year later he took on his current role at McDonald's UK.

What we think

Beresford, who exported the Big Mac to Russia and converted a $50m loss into a profit at the Japanese subsidiary, is viewed as a troubleshooter brought in to revive the fortunes of the British operation, which is the corporation's third most important market after the US and Japan.

Although McDonald's has become the UK's largest restaurant group since it opened its first outlet in 1974 and it remains the world's second best-known brand (after Coca-Cola), the UK subsidiary has been underperforming in recent years. Sales have stalled around the £1b mark for the past five years and pre-tax profits have hovered around £118m, while costs have continued to rise.

Beresford does not share the view that the McDonald's brand has had its day, but he concedes that the UK operation had lost its zeal for innovation and had failed to change with its customers.

He has adopted a back-to-basics approach - a return to variety and choice along with improved service and cleanliness - whilst also seeking to develop a more upmarket appeal for the brand.

The group has already begun to react to its critics by introducing healthier options and reducing the salt and fat content of its meals. It shifted 10 million fruit bags in their first year of launch (2003) while the Salads Plus range unveiled in March 2004 now accounts for 10% of profits.

McDonald's is eyeing up both the coffee market - to date it has opened seven McCafés - and the sandwich market. Beresford is also hoping to develop the restaurants as breakfast destinations on the back of a new, healthier menu launched in October 2004.

As a sign that McDonald's has started listening to its customers again, Beresford unveiled a £7.4m investment package this March based on recommendations from its Mums' panel and from nutritionists. This will add more fruit and vegetable options to the children's Happy Meal menu (which will be pushed in-store and on TV), provide better nutritional information, and promote a balanced and active lifestyle.

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