McDonald’s will admit next week that it has not done enough to allay European concerns about the nutritional value of meals and the quality of jobs at the world’s largest fast food chain.
In its first corporate responsibility report aimed at the European market, where sales have suffered amid concerns over food safety and obesity, the company will say it has learned from its customers that “we could do better in our understanding of wider social trends and expectations”.
Denis Hennequin, head of McDonald’s Europe and instigator of the report, says: “Stakeholders have told us time and again that we should communicate more on the issues we are dealing with.”
The 70-page report, aimed at EU policy makers, pressure groups, shareholders, suppliers and employees, gives details about the content and quality of meals and employment conditions. It draws on the views of a wide range of stakeholders from government officials to health and consumer groups, financial analysts and employees.
It says McDonald’s is “a leader in food safety and quality” and strongly rejects claims that restaurant workers are poorly paid and skilled, as epitomised by the American Merriam-Webster dictionary expression “McJob”. The report fits into a broader McDonald’s campaign against what it sees as stereotypes about its operations.
Going on the offensive earlier this month, Jim Skinner, chief executive, signalled that the group intended to take a lead on issues such as obesity. “If you’re not the lead dog, you’re not going to like the view,” he told the annual conference of Business for Social Responsibility, a prominent US non-profit organisation, in Washington.
It emerged last month that McDonald’s would become the first fast food chain to put nutritional information such as fat and sodium content on most of its packaging.
It has also taken initiatives to boost its image with consumers in Europe, where it has 6,200 restaurants. In September, it invited customers in 30 European countries to look round its kitchens under its Open Doors programme. In the UK, where it has lost a quarter of its sales in five years, it has launched a direct mailing campaign to educate consumers about the sources of its organic milk and vegetables.
Sales in Europe, which contributes more than 35 per cent of worldwide revenues and 40 per cent of profits, have recovered in the past two quarters after declines earlier this year. But the recovery has yet to gain momentum in the UK.