Dad of seven in charge of McDonald’s empire reveals secrets of fast food giant

A dad of seven has been called the ‘king of Maccies’ – as he runs…

A dad of seven has been called the ‘king of Maccies’ – as he runs four UK franchises for fast food giant McDonald’s. David Hunt worked his way up the ranks of the pub trade when he left catering college, and has spent his entire career in hospitality ever since.

David has now given an illuminating insight into how the business works, the impact of Covid on the industry and what McDonald’s staff can expect when they join the company. He credits the McDonald’s franchising model as the key to its global expansion.

“They want to franchise restaurants and allow the local people to run them and make them successful,” said David, who owns franchises in Devon – one in Bideford, two in Barnstaple and one in Tiverton, Devon Live reports. “You buy the restaurant, and you buy a 20-year franchise.”

He explained: “You pay McDonald’s an advertising fee, which is great because that’s the advertising we see on the TV and the radio. You also pay a service fee of five per cent of sales, and you pay rent for the premises. The rent can fluctuate between the stores. The rent was pretty reasonable in earlier stores, but today’s rent is a lot more, so opening a new restaurant can be very challenging.

“The benefit of being a franchisee is your support behind you. There are global schemes to back renewable energy, and we have long term electric contracts. Our electric costs are fixed, so we’re quite lucky that ours are roughly stable with energy prices going through the roof.

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“Things like purchasing food are all taken care of by McDonald’s, and so is the marketing.”

David opened his first McDonald’s franchise in the 1990s. He had previously held a job that involved covering long distances on a daily basis.

“I was travelling 300 miles a day, thinking there must be something else I could do with my life,” he said. “That’s when I applied to McDonald’s, and the rest is history. I started in 1997 when I gave up my corporate job on a Friday evening, giving up my company car and salary before I embarked on nine months of unpaid training with McDonald’s. At the end of the training, they offered me Barnstaple, and I relocated and took on my first restaurant in 1998.”

He eventually sold two restaurants – in Taunton and Minehead – in 2019. He said this was a ‘shrewd’ business move.

“I’m in a stable position, so now I can reap the benefits. When I took over my first restaurant in 1998, only 32 per cent of the restaurants in the UK were franchised. When I took over Minehead in 2007, it was probably about 50 per cent, and nowadays it’s more like 98 per cent.”

But he admitted the business has changed since Covid hit in 2020. “Before Covid, we did 54 per cent through the drive-thru and 46 per cent in the restaurants. We’re now doing 60 per cent drive-thru business, 20 per cent on home delivery and 20 per cent in the restaurants. It has changed dramatically.”

David’s four sites employ just under 500 people, with around 40 per cent of those being full-time and 60 per cent part-time. Pay for a person under 18 starts at £8.00 per hour with a range of apprenticeships beginning at Level Two (GCSE equivalent) and working up to Level 6 (BA Hons Business Management Degree).

“We are very much a go-to employer,” he said. “The pay rates we offer are very favourable in the marketplace, and staff turnover is low. People stay with me for a long time. I do service awards for people every five years, which is done regularly. I’ve just done a 30-year service award for one of my supervisors.

“I’m fortunate that I’ve got very good people working for me, and my business managers and each of the restaurants have been with me for a long time, and working closely with them is very important to me. In a recent survey, 88 per cent of our staff said they were happy with their job at McDonald’s and 87 per cent saying they would recommend to a friend.

“We are very seasonal, we’re constantly recruiting and building our team, so as we move forward into spring and the summer season, there are vacancies where you can go online and apply accordingly. At McDonald’s, we’re committed to helping our employees progress. We are proud to offer a wide variety of employment opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life. Our people make McDonald’s what it is, which is why we have worked hard to create jobs and opportunities that work for them irrespective of gender, age or life stage.”

He also highlighted the environmental initiatives supported by McDonald’s. “We focus very heavily on litter and do litter trash walks with the community. We’ve done a lot with North Devon Council over the years and with schools, doing lots of sponsorship of football teams and raising funds for our Ronald McDonald House charity. It’s nice to think that I can watch my people enjoy their jobs with the business being in a good place.”

David added: “It also means I can spend time with my wife Julie and our seven children and spend time in our garden or at church.”