Property Australia

How McDonald’s has evolved its design to meet the customer


Flipping burgers isn’t typically part of the skill set of development managers. But understanding the customer experience is at the heart of McDonald’s development approach, says Diana Grosmann.

Grosmann is head of property for McDonald’s in New South Wales and the ACT and has overseen the delivery of three new restaurants this year alone, with another five expected to open later in the year.

“We are hungry and ambitious about growth,” Grosmann says.

“Over the next three years, we’ll be investing around $200 million into new restaurants and McDonalds spring farm restaurantrefurbishments in NSW and ACT. This means we’re looking to open approximately 25 new restaurants and complete 60 reinvestments across both metro and regional areas.

“Technology is driving a lot of change, as we enable our customers to interact with us in the way they choose” – whether that’s at a digital kiosk or the front counter, the drive-thru, home delivery or table service.

Since Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s franchise in 1955, the design of the chain’s restaurants has changed to meet the needs of the customer. Grosmann is enthusiastic about the latest evolution of McDonald’s brand within the built form.

McDonald’s iconic yellow arches are an accent, rather than the dominant feature, of contemporary restaurants, as a new ‘Instagrammable’ design palette is rolled out internationally.

At the award-winning Sydney International Airport restaurant, for example, food is cooked in a yellow glass box and meals are transported by conveyer belt from a “kitchen in the sky”. Designed by Australian company, Landini Associates, influence has been drawn from multi-storey restaurants in Asia with small footprints and kitchens that float above dining areas.

“As we expand our business, we have to become more adaptable to urban environments,” Grosmann sydney airport mcdonaldsadds.

In June, McDonald’s opened its new flagship restaurant in New York City’s Times Square. Also designed by Landini Associates, the new restaurant replaces the original one that opened in 1984. Landini’s design, dubbed Project Ray, creates a calm environment of respite with a timeless palette of concrete, stainless steel and oak. A three-storey glass curtain wall presents spectacular dining room views.

While McDonald’s core business remains freestanding restaurants with drive-thru, the business has adapted to enhance growth. “This includes integration with mixed use development, highway service centres and smaller format retail sites in CBDs and premium railway stations,” Grosmann says.

McDonald’s and Stockland, for example, are progressing plans for a new urban renewal and apartment project in the heart Parramatta. McDonald’s owns the site on the corner of Church Street and Victoria Road, and is planning a mixed-use precinct with up to 350 apartments, around 1,565 sqm of community retail and a revamped restaurant.

times square mcdonalds

While the mixed-use concept is not new – Grosmann points to McDonald’s Melbourne headquarters, which has a restaurant below its offices – she says her team is looking at “more contemporary executions” of mixed-use development.

Grosmann started her career as a property lawyer, joining McDonald’s in 2012 as senior legal counsel. Since then, she’s enjoyed “amazing lateral career opportunities” including a ‘fast-track’ program during which time she spent “nine months flipping burgers to learn how the restaurants work”. She was the national delivery manager for McDonald’s UberEats launch before moving into her current role.

Grosmann is “passionate” about promoting female talent in the property industry, and applauds the work of the Property Male Champions of Change.

“McDonald’s has shown leadership in diversity. We have a significant number of senior female leaders in our business and we have many impressive women rising through the ranks.”

Earlier this year, McDonald’s launched a property graduate program and the two successful applicants, Madeline Pace and Monique Younis, are now immersed in two years of training in real estate, construction, design and asset management. McDonald’s is currently taking applications for the 2020 program.

Meanwhile, several rising stars are participating in the 2019 500 Women in Property program, including project manager Saba Kausar, who has been with the business for three years, is responsible for procurement and execution within McDonald’s construction team. Kausar has already built two restaurants this year and is responsible for delivery of several others.

Saba Kausar and Diana Grosmann

Grosmann says the depth of talent in her team – which includes development, construction, portfolio and property managers – is “critical to our success and ability to deliver growth. Saba is just one example of the talent we’re fostering at McDonald’s.”

Working within the property arm of the business is “incredibly satisfying”, she adds.

“I love every part of my job – from the very start of site identification and doing the deal to eating the first cheeseburger in the restaurant on day one. It’s exciting to be a part of a brand that continues to evolve to meet the needs of our customers.”