THE GOLDEN ARCH TO SUCCESS
Written on the 8 August 2014 by Karen Rickert
BRISBANE business man Mike Bolton (pictured) is hanging up his apron, after more than three decades with fast-food giant McDonald’s.
Bolton joined the quick-service restaurant as an accountant in 1981 and has been involved in various roles as it expanded across Australia.
He has engaged in both sides of the business, from climbing the corporate ladder to multi-franchise owner with wife Jan.
During peak times, their four McDonald’s restaurants at Albion, Toombul, Nudgee and Windsor West employed more than 650 people at any one time.
As a result, the power couple were given the Golden Arch Award in 2010 – an accolade recognising the top 1 per cent of franchisees globally for business development.
Reflecting on the beginning of his career, Bolton says he never anticipated the stronghold the brand has in Australia today.
“It was quite a fledgling company at that stage, we were only in Queensland, NSW and Victoria,” Bolton says.
“We had 100 stores planned for opening and we thought it we could increase that to 250, that would be achievable.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d get to 900 stores in Australia.”
Bolton shares with Brisbane Business News some of the keys to business success from a McDonald’s perspective.
During his time with McDonald’s, Bolton witnessed a number of innovations in the business model that are widely accepted today.
“I was one of the committee members behind the McCafe, which is an Australian concept,” he says.
“This was before the growth of coffee chains like Gloria Jeans or Starbucks and way before the coffee culture we have now.”
Other important milestones include the introduction of the breakfast menu, drive-through service and 24-hour trading.
“It was unheard of to have breakfast at a fast-food place in the 80s; most people had Weetbix or Vegemite on toast.
“Now dramatically more breakfast items are sold in Queensland, in comparison to Victoria.”
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
The growth trajectory hasn’t been without its challenges, including overcoming initial apprehension about the company’s origins.
“In those days it wasn’t easy for franchisees to make money or be welcomed, being an American company.
“It took a while to get the community on our side and it was mainly achieved because we had franchised stores to locals, as opposed to someone in Chicago.
“We would combat any negative perceptions about the food or ownership vigorously, but the reality is it just takes time.
“It’s easy to say now but back then it was very frustrating, everyone was working hard and a lot of people had their life earnings on the line.”
THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT
Very few brands have lasted as long as McDonald’s and Bolton says the key is to adapt to the contemporary.
“The first two decades were very structured and regimented in terms of operations and menu selection, but the last decade has really been revised.
“We’ve adapted to the customers and their tastes have widened as to what they consume, so we’ve included salads, wraps and smoothies.”
BEST BUSINESS PLAN
Bolton says the brand maintains a strong business plan that invests in its future.
“The franchise agreement lasts for 20 years and that’s unheard of in franchising - generally licenses last about seven years.
“In terms of building and equipment, the investment is quite substantial, so it is a longer provider of the economics behind it.
“McDonald’s has also been quoted as accumulating the best real estate around Australia and that’s fundamental for anything that sells.”
CLEAR CAREER MAP
Bolton switched from finance into operations after completing fast-tracked training and says there are distinct opportunities to advance.
“The real standout success has been the ability to develop young people into leaders. Three managing directors started out as casual crew members.
“Not only was there a real career road map, there was hard evidence to support it for people on the ground.
“Many of the people that worked for me have gone into management or become franchisees, starting out from humble beginnings.”
Bolton says although potential franchisees will be backed by one of the most recognised brands in the world, it’s a long-term commitment.
“Big brands attract lovers and haters; you have to be prepared for that.
“The biggest thing about McDonald’s is that it’s a labour-intensive business that trades 24 hours a day, seven days a week and every day of the year.
“Before joining, you’d have to think long and hard about the decision – it’s hard yards.”
Looking back, Bolton says it was easy to remain loyal to the same company for so long because he was “growing as an individual as McDonald’s matured.”
“Provided McDonald’s keeps evolving and stays relevant to consumers and its employees, then it will be around for many decades to come,” he says.
Bolton isn’t overly concerned, with the keen boatie looking forward to cruising along the east coast.