McDonald's to create 5,000 jobs as British sales soar 11%

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MCDONALD'S is to create 5,000 jobs in the UK after the nation was singled out as the US fast-food giant's best-performing market.

Speaking to The Scotsman, McDonald's UK chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, said he expected 400-500 jobs to be created in Scotland this year.

The extra posts would take the total number of workers employed by the group in the UK to 85,000.

Across the UK, annual sales rose by 11 per cent, beating the burger chain's global average growth of 3.8 per cent. Scotland itself marginally outperformed the UK, boasting a sales increase of 11.5 per cent for the year ending December.

Easterbrook said: "It's a real strong set of results, and it's the strongest year in what's been a four-year run now. We have seen the business add 465 million (in like-for-like sales]."

In comparison, European average sales growth came in at 5.2 per cent, the Middle-East, Asia and Africa at 3.4 per cent, and the US the weakest at 2.6 per cent.

The 5,000 jobs will mainly be in existing restaurants as the firm gears itself for longer opening hours to attract breakfast and late night customers. McDonald's also plans to open ten to 15 stores in the UK this year.

Easterbrook revealed that planning permission has been granted to selected sites in Scotland, but stressed that nothing had been finalised yet.

He also said the key to the UK's success was underpinned by continuing investment in revamping restaurants into caf-style outlets, costing some 95m last year.

So far, only 30 per cent of McDonald's restaurants in Scotland have been revamped, 15 of which were completed last year.

The company said it was speeding up the refurbishment process and added that all its restaurants would be finished in the next two to three years.

"We performed slightly differently (to the US]. Our customers are still feeling the pinch, but we are investing more willingly across the UK," added Easterbrook.

With penny-pinching customers flocking to the fast-food firm's low-cost menus during the financial crisis, Easterbrook was confident that diners would continue to find the chain attractive, despite beliefs that the worst of the recession is over.

"I'm not concerned about the fading of the recession. It has been a popular myth that we have benefited from the recession."

Scottish beef suppliers Scotbeef and Highland Meats also benefited from 14m worth of business from McDonald's.

Globally, McDonald's saw annual revenues drop 3 per cent, down to $22.7 billion (14bn) compared with 2008. However, it enjoyed an overall net profit rise of 6 per cent to $4.5bn.

Jim Skinner, group chief executive, said: "Our in-demand food and beverages, unparalleled convenience and superior value at every level of our menu enabled us to serve 60 million customers per day during 2009, up 2 million per day over the prior year."