Western Region Franchise Deputy General Manager, Mohammed Alireza, discusses CSR and how McDonald’s is contributing to society.
Out of all the franchises to choose from, why McDonald’s?
We were interested in McDonald’s as it is globally renown as the number one food retail brand. When it became apparent that the corporation was willing to enter the Kingdom, we approached it. It is basically the ‘golden nugget’ of quick service restaurants.
What are some of the philanthropic projects that McDonald’s has undertaken in the country?
An active lifestyle is very important for one’s well being, and as a brand we believe that awareness should be created in the communities through the various sporting programs we hold. We sponsor or partner up with sports related activities and organizers in the region. Four years ago the Jeddah 3×3 Basketball tournament was created after being approached by Team Up – a young and enthusiastic Saudi agency. The tournament now involves a charitable aspect where each of the three sponsors donate SR 10 to charity for each basket scored.
Moreover we organize the McMile Run, a sporting marathon in which children and adults of all age groups can participate. We also have programs that involve hospital visits by our customer relations team, some of whom get dressed in McDonald’s characters, in an effort to put smiles on people’s faces, especially children. Additionally, we have long standing relationships with many charities in the region, which we always assist and support whenever we can.
On what basis do you choose these projects?
From the start, we’ve been committed to doing the right thing. Our efforts ensure that our business practices and policies make a positive impact on society. We try to support any initiative that has a positive impact in whatever way we can. For us, children really come first, and many of our activities have been related to them and their well-being. For the last few years we’ve been doing the Ramadan Book Program in which we create and develop children’s stories teaching them good morals and values that are relevant to our society. We then sell them through our restaurants and the proceeds are donated to charity.
What are some of the activities McDonald’s engaged in that encourage the employment of Saudi youth?
In the early years, it was quite a struggle to employ Saudi youth, due to the perceptions associated with working in the service industry, but now, the winds are changing. Our Saudization programs are constantly evolving to better suit the needs of the Saudi youth and we work hard to create an environment where they can feel that they can develop and thrive.
We’ve broken barriers and have been leading not only in the industry but also in the private sector as a whole in terms of Saudization. We’ve always believed that the youth are the future of our country and currently we have over 25 percent Saudization in our company and we are working hard to increase it.
We have also introduced a couple of manager trainee programs. These are tailor made programs that are developed based on the educational and experience levels of various applicants. This will allow participants to be fast tracked to a store manager position in as fast as nine months in some cases. We try to work closely with the MOL and the HRDF to support their initiatives and programs, and we hope to maintain this.
We have also been working with the Help Center to employ special needs young adults in our stores where we train and develop them in a safe and friendly environment.