Working the way up at McDonald's
Jess Hawkesby went from working for cosmetics giant L'Oreal in London to flipping burgers and is as happy as Larry.
Hawkesby and business partner Nick Coutant are the franchise owners of the Memorial Ave McDonald's near Christchurch Airport, which opened at the weekend.
The pair moved from London to New Zealand – Hawkesby is a Kiwi – to buy a business. Coutant had a finance background, while Hawkesby had been in sales and marketing at L'Oreal for a decade.
They chose McDonald's because they saw it as a "recession-proof business" and they were shopping in difficult financial times.
The fast-food chain is not interested in laissez-faire franchisees; all owner managers have to work through the restaurants from the bottom up, Hawkesby said.
So, after applying for a franchise, she was on the floor, serving orders as part of the crew for nine months.
"Every franchisee has started off doing the absolute basics. We can all make burgers and we can all make fries.
"I went from Giorgio Armani to McDonald's but no regrets."
They took an offer to take on two Colombo St franchises, one in the city centre and the other in Sydenham.
Arriving in Christchurch on the weekend of September 4, 2010, their "timing was impeccable", she said.
The restaurants were both undamaged but the red zone cordon after February 22 put the city restaurant out of business indefinitely.
It was stuck behind the cordon and unlikely to have much trade – excepting city demolition workers – if it did reopen.
It will not be rebuilt until the central city is, Hawkesby said.
Although down to one restaurant, those employees who stayed in the city – many were students who left – were taken on at Sydenham.
Meanwhile, the airport McDonald's was in the pipeline and another franchisee who had been poised to run it stepped back so Hawkesby and Coutant could take it on to replace their city business.
McDonalds runs its own insurance through the group, which made it much easier for Hawkesby and Coutant to move on from the city restaurant.
Franchisees pay a levy to an Australasian McDonald's insurance company that reinsures itself in the usual way.
The 16 Christchurch restaurants were hit in varying degrees by the February quake. All except a few were repaired and reopened quickly, he said.
Two are closed indefinitely. Another was co-sited with a Mobil service station on Madras St.
Although turnover at the airport site was not as great as in the central city, the business was steady with the bigger number of people working in the west.
Hawkesby anticipates large growth as the surrounding area is further developed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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