When McDonalds first introduced drive-throughs to China, the concept was so foreign that many people would pick up their food through the drive-thru, park their cars, and bring the food inside the restaurant to eat it
Two decades ago, McDonalds was largely unknown here, except as a symbol of the decadent west. But a capitalist revolution has swept through the People’s Republic. And today mainland China, still officially Communist, is home to 800 McDonalds restaurants — with 200 more in Hong Kong.Jeff Schwartz, CEO of McDonalds China, says that’s just the beginning.“I just look at China’s 1.3 billion population,” he said. “U.S. (population) 300 million, 13,000 restaurants. China (population) 1.3 billion and 800
restaurants. Easily we’re talking 10,000 to 5,000 restaurants as it continues to develop. So the opportunity is endless.”It may be endless, but it’s not effortless. That’s why Schwartz and his boss, Tim Fenton, spend so much time in China — on the road, in the air and on the move. Fenton is CEO of McDonald’s for Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. There’s no one at McDonald’s with more experience moving into new markets.“Mistakes we made in the past: you don’t open just one store,” he said. “You get three or four or five deals done, build them consecutively, train the crew consecutively so you save on the money. So when a truck goes out from the distribution center, it’s not carrying one store, it’s carrying the
products for three to five.”When McDonald’s first opened in China in 1990, these streets were clogged with bicycles. But prosperity has brought an explosion in car ownership. However many headaches that may mean for Chinese drivers, McDonald’s saw an opportunity — called drive-thru. The company opened the first drive-thru outlet in November, 2005 and Schwartz says it’s been “very, very successful.”“(It’s a first) for anywhere at all in China,” he said. “Drive through was a brand new concept anywhere in China.