Prince Mishal bin Khaled Al-Saud is a young charismatic business leader of Saudi Arabia.
The prince is president of the Riyadh International Catering Company (RICC), which owns and operates McDonald’s restaurants in the central, eastern and northern regions of the Kingdom.
The company has announced plans to hire 1,000 young Saudi men to operate its new McDonald's outlets to be opened within a few years over a staggered schedule.
The young prince, who leads a huge team of workers with a sense of creative confidence and a coherent strategy, started his first entrepreneurial ventures at the age of 17.
After that, he never looked back. Prince Mishal, in his capacity as RICC chief, has reached several milestones. He has defined business strategies focusing on providing the highest standards of quality, cleanliness, service and value for customers.
Thanks to his visionary approach and his tireless efforts, McDonald’s has become a household name in the Kingdom and an active member in the society through various initiatives.
Prince Mishal said: “McDonald’s Saudi chapter prides itself on being a local member of the community and has been committed to being a responsible corporate citizen since the first restaurant opened in the country.”
He said McDonald’s supported various humanitarian causes through different charity initiatives in Saudi Arabia including the Insan Charity Association, which helps and rehabilitates orphan children in the Kingdom.
McDonald’s is also involved in various sports events that promote an active lifestyle such as the Kids Marathon, Rally Hail Sponsorship, Olympic Day Run and many more.
All McDonald’s restaurants in the Kingdom, he said, are 100 percent locally owned and operated.
All business decisions are locally made and revenues are reinvested in the local economy. McDonald's today has 120 restaurants across the Kingdom.
It is committed to the quality of the products it serves at each restaurant and also maintains an active social responsibility agenda. Prince Mishal spoke to Ghazanfar Ali Khan of the Arab News in an exclusive interview.
The following is the text of the interview:
How do you see the competition between McDonald's and other fast food chains in the Kingdom? Do you think competition will be more intense in future?
We prefer to call it Quick Service Restaurants or QSR. Since our first opening in December 1993 in Riyadh, we have focused on delivering great food, excellent service, unquestionable cleanliness, and affordable price value that have contributed to our success and leadership in the QSR sector in the Kingdom. Over the years, we have become a part of the Kingdom’s social fabric with great commitment to our people, our community and above all our country. We see competition as a healthy trend in the economy, as it allows us to demonstrate our values and excel at all times which in the end will be for the benefit of our customers at large.
McDonald's is participating in the London Olympics as a major partner of this prestigious sports event. Will there be any representation from McDonald's Saudi Arabia?
We just had our own regional version of the Olympic Competition for the “Best of the Best” in the region. This competition, titled “McDonald’s MEA Crew Olympics Competition”, was held first at all the regional markets and five to 10 gold medalists were selected from each market to travel to Dubai and compete with other countries’ Olympians.
In Saudi, we sent 15 Olympians, which included five Saudis. They competed in sports, mental and physical activities. Like the real Olympics, gold, silver and bronze medalists were recognized and the entire competition ran for two days. The McDonald’s MEA Crew Olympics Competition was held last May 27 and May 28 in Jumeirah Beach in Dubai and Saudi Arabia (Riyadh) was declared the second runner up among the countries that took part in this event. Do you have plans to hire Saudi women to work in your restaurants or in McDonald's backroom offices/operations?
We are committed to investing in local employment and investing in the local workforce. We are a leader in local employment and proud to have over 1,000 Saudis on our payroll representing 30 percent of our total workforce of 3,500 people.
Our current operational structures allow us to only hire males. However, we do employ some females in our restaurants, which only cater to females, specifically those restaurants located in “Ladies Malls”.
What is the total number of McDonald's outlets in Saudi Arabia today? How many new restaurants will be opened by McDonald's in 2012 and 2013?
We have more than 120 restaurants in the Kingdom, with an aggressive expansion plan ahead of us. We will be offering more than 1,000 employment opportunities for Saudis in the upcoming year. This will be in addition to the existing number of Saudi employees who are currently working in every department of our operation.
How good has McDonald’s performance been during the last two years?
Obviously, we cannot disclose our specific market results. However, we can confirm that our results have by far surpassed McDonald’s Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa’s (APMEA) results. In 2011, McDonalds APMEA achieved a sales growth of 7.4 percent. Our strategy is to focus on menu innovation, value initiatives and limited-time offers which created excitement and drove consumer demand in this key growth region.
What can you tell us about the health and hygienic practices adopted by McDonald’s restaurants in Saudi Arabia?
There were some online campaigns to malign the image of McDonald and even an online clip was shown about McDonald's Madinah branch handling vegetables in a very unhealthy manner. Also, a branch of McDonald's was shut down after a case or cases of food poisoning was reported early this year.
McDonald’s KSA operates according to the highest food safety standards and regulations, meeting both local and international laws and regulations. All our supply chain and operations are tightly controlled and orchestrated by its experts to ensure quality, safety and consistency. All our suppliers fully meet and exceed official global benchmarks as well as McDonald’s food safety standards, product specifications and farm biosecurity policies.
We simply do not take any shortcuts from our meats to our fries, from our fresh produce to our eggs. We’re committed to serving our customer the very best.
The video that was published online a few weeks back was a staged fabrication and in no way represents the manner in which lettuce is handled in our restaurants. McDonald’s Saudi Arabia sources its lettuce from reputable Saudi-based supplier Del Monte. The lettuce is washed, sanitized, and packed in the supplier’s purpose-built facility, then delivered to our restaurants daily in sealed, ready to use bags, and therefore requires no washing or drying in our kitchens whatsoever.
McDonald’s prides itself on its transparency. With our Open Door Program, we open our doors and welcome all to tour our kitchen to take a close look at the quality standards of our products and procedures. This is an open invitation for those interested in learning more about our kitchen at any point in time.
Please give us the names of three top Saudi officials who like to eat from McDonald's. There was a video on the Internet in which Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is holding McDonald's fries in his hand and eating while taking a walk with some other officials at a function.
McDonald’s is a part of the Kingdom’s social fabric. Officials, celebrities, families, and teens all have an emotional connection to the brand. The video that you’ve mentioned was a recording of the Al-Faisaliah Mall opening ceremony where we were honored and proud to serve the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques along with many of the country’s leaders and officials who all enjoyed our delicious McDonald’s fries.
McDonald's has been involved in several local Saudi charities and philanthropic activities. What can you tell us about them?
Giving back is an essential part of the way McDonald’s KSA operates every day, through continuous involvement in local charities, events and youth sports events that inspire our citizens. Our social responsibility agenda continually embraces different charity projects with organizations such as Insan, SANAD, and the Disabled Children’s Association.
Specifically, McDonald’s KSA partners with Insan Charity Association in an effort to help those children in need.
McDonald’s KSA is proud of its long-term relationship with Insan where it has been continuously supporting them for nine years now. We have created an annual initiative to address this cause under the theme “teach a child, support another”. Through this initiative, we use our restaurants to sell children’s stories at a nominal price and all proceeds go to supporting the children at Insan.
What is your involvement in local sports events? Are you involved or supporting/sponsoring any future sports event?
We openly advocate children participating in sports. We regularly hold kids marathons in different areas of KSA. Also, we continuously sponsor different local sports events including the Kings Cup, Insan’s football tournament and others. McDonald’s is also proud to be the official restaurant of the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
Is there any plan in the pipeline to launch any other business activity either related to McDonald’s or unrelated to it in other sectors?
No plans in the pipeline at the moment to diversify out of our core business. Our strategy is focused on grasping the market potential through growing our business by opening many new McDonald’s restaurants at different locations across the Kingdom in an effort to be easily accessible to all our customers, while maintaining our high standards in quality, cleanliness and service.