At the top of the food chain
Little more than 20 years ago, Ron Mounsey would have been found hard at work on his dairy farm in Carmarthenshire, carrying on a legacy that has lasted for three centuries. It was back in 1997, however, that Ron decided that it was time for his life to take an altogether different direction. “Having spent the vast majority of my life at the primary end of the world of agriculture, I took the decision to see what the other end of the food chain, the finished product end, looked like,” he begins.
“I began by looking at a number of different avenues into owning my own restaurant, with a preference being to stay in the local area around Carmarthen,” Ron continues. “With my limited knowledge of this side of the sector, what I looked for specifically was an opportunity to gain comprehensive training in how to become a restaurant owner and that is what drew my attention to McDonald’s and its nine-month training programme.”
Starting as a crew member, Ron utilised the business acumen accrued Wales through more than two decades of running his own farming business to come through the training process, quickly moving into management and, ultimately opening his first McDonald’s franchise in Carmarthen in September 1998. At the time one of the things McDonald’s franchisees aspired towards was becoming a ‘three store operator’, and it was the success of the Carmarthen restaurant that resulted in Ron achieving this within just a couple of years. Jump forward to 2017 and Ron today has 15 restaurants across South Wales, from Newport to Pembrokeshire, which together turn over more than £36 million a year.
“Over the years, I have made sure to be vigilant of opportunities available in the region, purchasing restaurants from not only McDonald’s themselves, but also six restaurants from a fellow franchisee at one stage,” Ron explains. “When identifying a location for a new restaurant, what we look for is the right level and type of human resource available, before taking bright, enthusiastic local people through their own comprehensive on-site training programme. The vast majority of my managers today, they all started from crew level, as I did, and have worked their way up to the point where they are now contributing towards a multi-million-pound restaurant business.”
While Ron’s restaurant portfolio, and thus his workload, has increased, what has not changed is the commitment to improving the customer experience, something that was instilled in his from the very first day of his training. As he goes on to describe, there are several initiatives he relies upon in order to maintain the level of quality he expects. “As with any franchise, our restaurants are subject to regular audits, the results of which are fed back to us by McDonald’s. As an organisation, McDonald’s values the franchise model as it places independent people in charge of their own business, which they take great pride in running. Together with McDonald’s, we work in unison to cascade our expectations down the chain to our managers and crew. In much the same way, we can also use this line of communication to provide feedback from our employees back up the chain.
“Meanwhile, we also introduced a new customer feedback system back in March 2017, called ‘Food for Thought’, which replaces a previously used scheme known as Gap Buster, which involved two mystery shopper visits per month. What we are seeing as a result is that we are receiving an average of around 30 customer surveys per month per restaurant, which naturally gives us a wider, more detailed view of where we are as a business, what our customers think about our restaurants and what we can do to further improve upon their experience.”
One of the regular themes of the feedback Ron, and indeed other franchisees, receive is a desire for the customer experience to be as smooth and simple as possible. In response to this, McDonald’s has incorporated a number of new technology advances across its restaurants such as touch screen kiosks, advances that Ron has been quick to introduce to his own sites.
“So far, I have converted 12 of my restaurants to accommodate the use of touch screen kiosk technology, with the remaining three to follow shortly,” he adds. “We have just recently commenced with the roll out of a smartphone APP that allows customers to place their order from their device, take a seat and have their meal brought to them. Together, these technologies are bringing forward a table service concept that previously would never have been dreamt of in a fast-food environment, and are ultimately making lives easier for our customers, especially families and large groups who visit our restaurants. We are also excited to be in the very early stages of trialling our new delivery service through our partnership with UberEATS.”
Continuous improvement is something that, by its very definition, never ends and Ron is well aware of this fact. “As well as bedding in the aforementioned new technologies, we need to ensure that we continue to have the right mix of correctly trained and experienced people on board in order to satisfy our customers’ needs,” he enthuses. “It is these same people that will be invaluable in driving through our internal targets, such as improving accuracy during the drive-thru experience and further perfecting the in-store dining experience.”
In terms of his own goals, Ron has a clear vision himself of what he wants to achieve. “Of course, I would love to grow my own business further by obtaining further restaurants in 35the coming years. We certainly have the capability, capacity, structure and financial strength to achieve this, and by embracing, and taking advantage of, the new technologies that are coming into play, as well as the rest of the Experience of the Future programme that we have been putting into place, we hope to remain at the forefront of what is an ever-more competitive market.”