Managing director's finesse boosts McDonald's image in Korea - Korea Times
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Managing director's finesse boosts McDonald's image in Korea

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South Jeolla Governor Kim Yung-rok, center, and McDonald's Korea Managing Director Antoni Martinez, second from right, pose for a picture after signing an MOU to expand the use of domestic agricultural products at McDonald's restaurants in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, Tuesday. Courtesy of McDonald's Korea
South Jeolla Governor Kim Yung-rok, center, and McDonald's Korea Managing Director Antoni Martinez, second from right, pose for a picture after signing an MOU to expand the use of domestic agricultural products at McDonald's restaurants in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, Tuesday. Courtesy of McDonald's Korea

Managing director emphasizes mutual growth with local regions

By Kim Jae-heun

Antoni Martinez's management finesse has been bolstering McDonald's image in Korea, ever since he took over as managing director of the global fast-food franchise's Korea unit in February last year.

The managing director's biggest strength is his ability to communicate with customers and employees, and that talent has swayed public sentiment in favor of the company.

"Martinez always wants to know what customers want from McDonald's and tries to reflect it. Bringing back Filet-O-Fish is one example, which was erased from our menu in 2009. Martinez also re-introduced the McLunch platform in February, a discount promotion between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.," a McDonald's Korea official said. "He frequently checks the 'voice of customers' page on our official website and seeks advice from staff on what the market wants from McDonald's."

Korean customers had been complaining about the deteriorating quality of burgers before Martinez stepped in. His first change was to strengthen food processing methods and improve the flavor of burgers by using premium buns for all menu items.

McDonald's refers to this initiative as the "Best Burger Initiative," which the fast food restaurant chain has adopted in only four countries ― Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Korea. Under the initiative, McDonald's Korea changed not only the buns, but also patties and the utensils used in food preparation. This boosted total burger sales by 18 percent year-on-year in 2020.

McDonald's Korea Managing Director Antoni Martinez speaks about the company's values and its plan to support the local community during a virtual conference in March. Courtesy of McDonald's Korea
McDonald's Korea Managing Director Antoni Martinez speaks about the company's values and its plan to support the local community during a virtual conference in March. Courtesy of McDonald's Korea

To express his gratitude towards customers and his staff, Martinez posted a message on YouTube in March in which he talked about his 2021 plan via McDonald's "Our New Way" strategy to support social responsibility and pursue sustainable growth.

Another interest of the managing director is mutual growth with local regions.

Under a new project called "Taste of Korea," the fast-food giant signed a memorandum of understanding with South Jeolla Province to expand the use of domestic agricultural and specialty products on Tuesday.

The project is designed to promote regional economic development with Korean farmers and business partners by incorporating domestic ingredients into McDonald's Korea menus.

McDonald's Korea currently sources 1,500 tons of lettuce, 520 tons of onions and 128 tons of tomatoes annually from South Jeolla Province. Last year, the fast-food restaurant chain also purchased 164 tons of pears from Naju, which are famous for their sweet and crisp taste, and launched the Naju Pear Chiller, a beverage that gained instant popularity with local customers. South Jeolla Province is now the largest regional source of domestic ingredients for McDonald's Korea.

"Sourcing good ingredients improves the quality of our food. We've been using local agricultural products for a period of time. There are good food materials in Korea and they suit the taste buds of local customers too. We also took freshness into consideration in our retailing process," the official said.

"Taste of Korea" will not be a one-time project and McDonald's Korea will continue to collaborate with local farmers and communities, although no further plans have been announced so far.

"We seek shared growth and introduce delicious and unique menus that incorporate terrific Korean ingredients," Martinez said.

Jobs, Inclusion & Empowerment

Under Martinez's management, McDonald's Korea will add 500 full-time positions this year, including restaurant department managers and shift managers. In 2020, McDonald's Korea hired the most full-time workers since entering Korea in 1988. About 530 full-time employees were added to the company, increasing the conversion rate to full-time employees by 3.4 times compared to the previous year. And all of this was achieved when many other companies in Korea were freezing new hires or downsizing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kim Jae-heun jhkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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