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Strategic partnerships in practice: McDonald’s and O2

At O2’s annual Blue Door Expo in October 2020, our CEO Mark Evans met up with Paul Pomroy, Chief Executive Officer for McDonald’s UK and Ireland. Their discussion spanned innovation, partnerships, leadership, culture and mindset in challenging times, and how technology will shape to prepare McDonald’s for the future.

Listen to the full interview between Mark and Paul on our Blue Door Podcast.

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Here are three highlights from the conversation:

1. The importance of business leadership in 2020

Mark talked about Paul’s role, the importance of leadership, and about how he set about keeping people energised throughout 2020, right across the McDonald’s estate. Paul admitted it has been challenging, because McDonald’s is a business that’s normally high on face to face engagement:

“It was a big moment for us as a brand to move away from that sort of face-to-face engagement. We obviously moved quickly to adopt technology, like getting on platforms such as Microsoft Teams. But the hardest thing at the start was to make sure you’ve been inclusive and to try to recreate all those small moments and interactions you had, like chats over coffee.”

For Paul and his teams, the hardest thing was to stay connected in a truly authentic way – in other words, finding out how people really are.

Like many businesses, we tried different things, some of which felt a little staged. But our restaurant teams were amazing – they did lots of TikTok videos, they did the hat challenges and football games just to try and stay socially connected.


2. Where partnerships fit in the three-legged stool

O2 has been partnered with McDonald’s for more than a decade. We provide connectivity to their restaurants, as well as the in-store wifi service for their customers. Paul discussed the role that partners and suppliers have played in the success of McDonald’s, and how they form one leg of the company’s three-legged stool.

It’s a concept that is attributed to Ray Crock, the founder of McDonald’s, back in the 1960s:

“Ray Crock said that for McDonald’s to be successful, we need our franchisees, our supplies and our people all to be equally successful. They are like the three legs of a stool. If you have one leg of the stool that’s not equal, it’ll be wobbly. That’s why we try to be really inclusive as a brand, and look after our suppliers, franchisees and our people in equal measure.”

It’s a simple idea, and it has underpinned McDonald’s thinking ever since. In fact, around 700 people attend their Annual General Meeting (AGM) each year, of whom a third comes from supplier base, a third from our franchisees and a third from the office.


3. Where technology fits

Technology in restaurants is at the forefront of everything McDonald’s does. It was interesting to hear Paul discuss what has been a mindset shift for the brand’s franchisees, realising that McDonald’s is on a journey to become a technology business that serves food, rather than simply a restaurant chain.

O2 is working with McDonald’s on an ambitious plan with future technology to upgrade the connection of all the restaurants to ethernet by Easter:

“It’s a massive step forward for us that will improve the reliability of the connection between our restaurants, the office and our suppliers, which is increasingly important. Of course, that can only improve the experience for our customers as well.”



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