World Retail Voice Blog Post
Interview with Greg Solomon, Managing Director, McDonald’s South Africa
How would you define the current momentum of the retail sector in Africa?
The landscape of the food retail sector is becoming less clearly defined with customers simply making a choice between eating out of home and eating in versus differentiating between the various Informal Eating Out options. We have seen that growth trends in retail food and beverages sales have largely stagnated with growth rates expected to continue to be relatively modest.
What guarantees McDonald’s success in today’s climate?
At McDonald’s, not only have we live history, but we create it. We actively strive to remain relevant to our customers and we have evolved our business as our customer’s needs evolve. We believe that constant innovation is key to our continued success and since establishing our first restaurant in 1995 in South Africa, we have continued to amplify new innovations to the local market – like Drive-Thru which we introduced to South Africans 19 years ago, or 24/7 service and hand held Breakfast offerings to the country a few years later. McDonald’s restaurants are situated in locations which are convenient and easily accessible for our customers and we provide our them with a menu that offers choice and great value. The future success of our business is built on our people strength, and successful partnerships, with our owner operators, our suppliers and our staff.
In your opinion is leadership too easily overlooked in an organisation?
Yes it is. I believe that a significant problem in the country as a whole is an absence of strong leaders in organisations. Successful organisations, share common characteristics, of which the strength of the broader leadership team is key and shapes the way organisations play the game and succeed. Strong leadership teams foster environments of positive discomfort – it is no longer about giving instructions, instead is about creating a space where you are able to balance loyalty with results. To lead successfully, you have to have followed and having a robust talent management strategy in place will ensure the long-term sustainability of any organisation.
Youth is something that retailers look to, with almost 50% of the population being under 20 years. How can these young consumers change the strategies of retailing?
We realised that understanding the youth market and their preferences are key to our long-term sustainable success. As a business, we have found ways to connect with the youth across multiple touch points and we have innovated and changed our business to meet the needs of the youth market so we ensure our continued relevance as a brand. This includes our menu, our restaurant environment and our social responsibility. Not only do the youth market demand constant innovation from organisations, but they are increasingly evaluating and benchmarking us against a number of socially conscious criteria and they are basing their brand loyalty not on traditional interactions but on peer recommendations and opinions. McDonald’s appeals to all ages and we know that the kids of today will soon be our youth and mothers of tomorrow. From cheese burger to big Mac to share box and so the cycle evolves.
Are there other exciting African markets that McDonalds are looking to expand into?
McDonald’s South Africa are excited about the growth opportunity in Africa. While this process would be led by our international headquarters, McDonald’s South Africa will keep a keen interest as it evolves. We still see significant opportunity for growth in South Africa.