Unveiling the Secrets of McDonald's Hong Kong’s Success: A Visit to the Secret Kitchen

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It all started in 1975. The moment the red-haired Ronald in the iconic yellow jumper, striped long socks, and bright red boots set foot in Hong Kong, everything changed. McDonald’s has truly built itself an empire in this fast-paced city, integrated seamlessly into Hong Kong culture. With 250 restaurants and serving over 1 million customers per day, McDonald’s has become the largest restaurant chain in Hong Kong. So what’s the secret behind all of this? How has McDonald’s grown to be an inseparable part of Hong Kongers' everyday life in less than 50 years? On the afternoon of April 29th, our visit to the McDonald’s Secret Kitchen unveiled it all.

McDonald’s digital transformation: innovate for growth

“Precision and accuracy are extremely important at fast food restaurants. We have to calculate the most trivial things: such as the number of seconds it takes for a staff to make a burger, or to fill a coke, and even a small delay may cause a huge inflow of customer complaints.” McDonald’s CFO, Mr Keith Chan told me at the end of the event during free discussion. And yet, in an ever-changing world, McDonald’s was ranked one of the most innovative companies in the seemingly rigidity of the fast-food industry. Their framework of “1. Redefine value 2. Reinvent convenience 3. Rejuvenate communication” is the key that incubates innovation in McDonalds, making them a leader, rather than a follower of trends. In an increasing digitalized world, “Value Monday” coupons and events exclusive from the McDonald’s App offers customers higher value: a better experience with a lower price; the ability of order and pay remotely on an app increases convenience and reinvents the traditional business model of a typical fast-food restaurant packed with queuing; and through a more social way of promotion on social media, McDonald’s strive to communicate with its customers in a more fun and customized way. Impressed by the numerous details that McDonald’s have put into innovation, I truly see them as a leader of the industry, creating paradigm shifts of fast-food operations and innovating in this dynamic, digitalized world.  

Being more than just a fast-food restaurant

From being the 24/7 available resting place for many of those living in poor conditions in the subdivided flats in Hong Kong, to offering opportunities to every staff regardless of gender, race or disabilities; from providing healthy options such as Caesar salads for its customers, to offering affordable, soft-bun Filet-O-Fish for the underprivileged elderly who can’t afford fish proteins in wet markets, McDonald’s is way beyond a fast-food restaurant. I was impressed by the amount of effort McDonald’s has put into human-centered care for all: “Human-to-human (H2H) communication” was the key behind all of this.

Ronald McDonald House Charities: giving back to the community

Through a short film “Home is wherever we are together” McDonald's gathers support for Ronald McDonald House Charities Hong Kong (麥當勞叔叔之家 RMHC) in helping sick children and their families. We may not know that not only do the sick children suffer, but also parents who are exhausted and siblings who often get less attention. The storytelling of the promotional video of the new Ronald McDonald House in Kwun Tong brought us all to tears. McDonald’s, being the major supporter for RMHC, which provides residence that is close to children’s hospitals for sick children and their entire family, gives back to the community and supports those in need.  

The Mastermind behind it all: CEO Ms Randy Lai and the future of leadership

Only a few have the ability to propose improvements for a multinational company, and even fewer have the courage to make cold calls to senior directors and deliver their suggestions. And that’s exactly what Ms Randy Lai, the current CEO of McDonald’s did when she was just a young female who just entered the workforce. Besides the courage that Randy has, her down-to-earth, energetic leadership style stood out to me: she made a stark contrast with the traditional impressions of what a “leader” is: powerful, strong, and even somewhat frightening. Randy recalled herself being scared and showing vulnerability during a Melo Fellow “Escape” activity last year: “I got so scared in the escape room and hid in the corner! Everyone thought in a high leadership position, we are superheroes, and we can only show our strength. However, I believe that showing vulnerability and being authentic is an important part of leadership too.”  As a woman in a leadership position which is dominated by men, I began to see a positive change to traditional power and what kind of changemaker I aspire to be. In Randy's own words, leadership shouldn’t be about positional power. Influential power, which equals “respect and trust”, is what got her where she is now.

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