McDonald's Canada prez speaks at Western

Claims chicken McNuggets are healthier than homemade grilled cheese

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Louie W. Mele speaks at Ivey yesterday

Claire Neary

YOU WON'T BE LOVING QUADRUPLE BYPASS SURGERY BEFORE YOU'RE 40, SMART GUY. McDonald's Canada president Louie W. Mele spoke at Ivey yesterday.

Louie W. Mele, president of McDonald’s Canada, spoke yesterday in a presentation given by the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Richard Ivey School of Business.

“I just wanted to tell you I’m not a tycoon,” Mele said. “I’m just a fry guy at McDonald’s. I’ve spent my entire working career [with] McDonald’s. It’s meant a world of opportunity.

“Canada was the first market outside the U.S. to introduce the Golden Arches,” Mele said. “The second-ever restaurant in Canada was [on] Oxford Street here in London.

“In Canada, we have 1,400 restaurants serving two and a half million people per day, and employing 77,000 employees.”

Mele remarked on the trouble his company has faced.

“In 2002 we pursued a very aggressive restaurant expansion strategy around the world,” he said. “We weren’t paying enough attention to our existing customers. Customers’ tastes were changing but we weren’t.

“McDonald’s menu items fit into a balanced, active lifestyle,” he added. “The nutritional value of our foods compares favourably to food that families eat at home.

“A Happy Meal-size chicken McNuggets has less fat and calories, and more protein, than a grilled cheese sandwich that you would make at home.”

Mele discussed projects including Ronald McDonald Children’s House.

“It’s an amazing place of compassion and love and it’ll change you forever.”

Mele also stressed McDonald’s importance as an employer of Canadian youth.

“We face a very negative and inaccurate stereotype that a McDonald’s job is a low-paying, dead-end job,” he said. “In many countries around the world McDonald’s is recognized as one of the best companies to work for in that country.”

Mele finished his speech by answering audience questions. In response to the suggestion McDonald’s creates a conformist culture he said, “We’re just a restaurant. We offer choices to people whether that’s conforming or not.

“A lot of these [people in other countries] want that American culture,” he added. “They feel they’ve touched America by going into McDonald’s.

Mele also discussed the company’s environmental policies, including attempts to reduce its packaging and use recycled materials.

“When someone sees a beer can on the ground, nobody says, ‘Geez, Molson is terrible.’ Yet you see a McDonald’s cup on the ground " why did you say, ‘Gosh, McDonald’s, why did you do that?’ It’s all about the public being responsible too.”

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