AMBER ARSHAD: Globally, in most countries, McDonald’s Open Door Programme was launched before 2009. Why did McDonald’s Pakistan decide to start this in 2015?
JAMIL AHMED MUGHAL: We feel that we have now reached enough penetration in terms of our retail network to carry out this programme and ensure it reaches a large number of people. Although we had been contemplating this idea for the past few years, we felt that until we had a significant number of branches across Pakistan, this campaign would not have the required impact. We now operate in nine cities across Pakistan, and have scaled to second tier cities as well – and hence we can showcase our capabilities to a large majority of people.
AA: So what is the purpose of the Open Door Programme and what does it involve?
JAM: Essentially the purpose is that people come and see our high standards of operation. The tour includes everything; from how we store equipment, to how we handle and store raw and cooked material, to the movement of the material from storage to kitchen, then the preparation and how the ingredients are assembled, and then delivered to the customer. We also showcase how hygiene is maintained; this includes kitchen hygiene and most importantly personal hygiene of the staff and how they have to sanitise their hands according to our SOPs. Then comes how we control cross contamination; there are separate colour-coded gloves and dusters to handle raw and cooked material. In food cooking, we show our oil change protocol and how our grills and other equipment are cleaned at frequent intervals. We have been following these protocols for the last 17 years and they have become a part of our DNA. People are curious to know what goes on behind the scenes, and we see no harm in opening our doors to them.
AA: Who is the target audience of this Programme?
JAM: Anyone and everyone. We want people to come and see – be it a mother, a father, teen, young adult – for themselves how we operate. It is especially for people who are interested in cooking or who focus on hygiene. Anyone coming to our restaurant, from a kid to a grandparent, is welcome.
AA: What is the procedure to register for the tour?
JAM: Customers can register through our website. They simply have to fill a form and specify the preferred outlet they would like to visit – although mall and small outlets are not included because of limited kitchen space. Our representatives then call to confirm the tour, which is approximately 25 minutes long.
“People are curious to know what goes on behind the scenes and we see no harm in opening our doors to them.”
AA: What is the waiver liability form that customers have to sign prior to confirming the tour?
JAM: This is standard procedure, whereby we ensure that in case anything happens to the customer, we will not be held liable. In the kitchen, there is a lot of involvement in terms of hot oil and grills, and although we do our best to ensure safety and keep customers within the designated path, they may accidently brush against it. This is just a standard procedure.
AA: How is the safety of customers ensured, and on the other hand how do you ensure they do not have any contagious ailment?
JAM: Firstly, very young children are not allowed to participate as it is very difficult to handle them inside a kitchen. Then we take groups comprising of five to 10 people to avoid congestion. When it comes to ailments, we can only check for visible, identifiable ones. Also during the tour, customers are not allowed to touch any product; equipment, or raw or cooked food.
AA: Is this a one-off or will it be an annual programme?
JAM: It’s not a one-off campaign. We will evaluate the results and see how we can scale it up and reach more cities. We plan to increase our retail network and then come back with this programme, and perhaps enhance its scope as well.
AA: How is the campaign promoted?
JAM: It’s a 360 degree promotion, done by Manhattan Leo Burnett; we are on TV, radio, outdoor, print and heavily on digital. We have three TVCs which are showing three of the protocols (oil change, hand sanitisation and food safety); we have 11 more protocols, videos of which can be seen on our website. These videos cover details from the cooking processes to floor cleaning.
AA: About six months ago there was a controversy related to the sourcing of meat from a Chinese company. Did this further ignite the need to launch this programme?
JAM: Not at all. There is no connection. We planned the launch of this campaign in 2013. As I said it has to do with scalability. We opened in Gujranwala in October last year (making it the ninth city we operate in), and that is when we thought we had reached the required scalability to launch the programme.
AA: What does McDonald’s hope to achieve from this programme?
JAM: We want to showcase what we have been doing from the past 17 years. We want to highlight how well trained we are and how much we believe in training. The reason why people trust us is because of the many different things we do and how quality is our highest priority.
AA: Are there any similar campaigns that you have in the pipeline?
JAM: Yes, we are working on one called ‘Your right to know’. This will involve our customers asking questions on our digital platforms and our representatives providing the answers. As technology is involved here, we want to ensure that we have the perfect infrastructure before going ahead with this.
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