Invincible Mcdonalds

In 1982 the return of HMS Invincible from the Falklands War afforded me an opportunity to assemble all our major customers for a unique 'entertainment'. Buyers from Kraft Foods, Lyons Maid, Walls, Unigate, Express Dairies amongst a dozen or so others stayed overnight in Gosport prior to making their way in the morning to Camper & Nicolson's Sailing Club premises. The club overlooks the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. I had hired it for the day. None present - certainly not myself, will ever forget the sight of that great, grey and rust-streaked warship looming out of the early morning Solent mists, slowly entering the harbour surrounded by a massive flotilla of small vessels of every kind and accompanied by a cacophany of hooting from land and sea. Her crew were lined up in traditional Royal Navy fashion along her decks. Whatever you might have felt about the rights and wrongs of Margaret Thatcher's carefully orchestrated campaign, I personally had never felt more proud of my country. And I could tell by the looks and emotion on the faces of my business friends that I was not alone. The moment had struck some kind of a nationalist nerve deep within us all, not least the two ladies alongside me on a business occasion for the first time; Delia and her ex-WREN mother, Wynne.

By then we had recovered the company's sales and profits momentum and I had a full complement of field and office sales staff covering the UK markets in depth. I was also managing fully staffed offices in Stockholm and Paris and was working closely with agents in Northern Ireland, Eire, Switzerland and Norway. In addition I was a frequent visitor to our sister company in Holland, (the company of which I had in the early seventies been appointed caretaker managing director). There was also our subsidiary plant near Bristol, specialising in the manufacture of drinking straws and, after the start-up of Macdonalds in the UK, the paper cups that complemented Gosport's plastic equivalents. Several of the people key to these operations were recruited as a direct result of my own 'previous life' in the by then defunct Lily Cups and Containers of Liverpool.

Macdonalds! Now there was a name to conjure with! One day, over a drink with Henry and Sorretta Shapiro in their Connaught Hotel suite I was told the story that had underpinned some of Maryland Cup's latterday success in the USA. As I recall, a certain fifty something years old L.A. commercial kitchen equipment salesman by the name of Ray Kroc had bought into an L.A. barbeque restaurant by the name of Macdonalds. He had come up with the idea of hamburgers in a hurry and turned the M of Macdonalds into those famous golden arches. Kroc approached Henry for extended credit on the disposable paper food and drinks packaging. Henry then secured preferred shares in the Kroc's company. The rest, as they say, is history. By the time of his death in his eighties Mr Kroc was the wealthiest person in the USA and Henry's shares had multiplied in value many thousands of times over.

It was around this time that Macdonalds commissioned a market research covering the UK. The net answer; don't touch it with a bargepole. Brits will never consent to drink out of paper cups or munch big-time into fast service burgers. Typically, however, Ray Krok said the researchers were wrong. He threw them out and opened up the first franchised UK Mcdonalds store in Tottenham Court Road. Henry and I went there during that first week of operations. Customers were queuing down the road! We sat having our burger lunch with the Chicagoan franchisee - I forget his name. I could hardly believe it when kids came up with requests for the Americans to sign menu cards! A bright prospect for packaging sales had opened up for my company. This was clearly going to be more than a new venture in people feeding. It was going to be a sea-change in the British way of life. Whether you like, love or would leave Mcdonalds and all it stands for, the way and the sheer speed with which they opened up the whole of the UK and European markets was one of the world's foremost example of mass marketing in action.

Back at the ranch house (as the saying goes) things were not getting any easier. I'll be writing next about the three, perhaps unlikely new directions in which our family life was turning: Julie and her snooker ambitions; Stuart / Seth and the dog shows;  Robert and the commercial fishing boat I was prevailed to buy for him!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.