Shreyas Kulkarni

From new EatQual packaging to rise in dine-ins at Nellore and Tirupati, a chat with McDonald’s Arvind RP

The director of marketing and communications, McDonald’s India (West and South), talks about inclusivity, breakfast menu and rivals.

It is one thing to eat a burger with both hands, but try and eat it with one hand and it can make a world of difference. So, McDonald’s has now introduced a new EatQual packaging for customers with limited upper hand mobility.

The leading fast food giant has released an ad which was conceptualised by DDB Mudra Group. It shows how a simple design can make lives better for so many people.

Arvind RP
Arvind RP

We caught up with Arvind RP, director – marketing and communications, McDonald’s India (West and South), to better understand this packaging. He also talked about how the last few months have been for his company, the competition from a diverse set of entities, among other things.

Edited excerpts:

How did the EatQual packaging come to life?

McDonald’s has been working towards it for quite some time. Inclusivity is at the core of our brand positioning so that everyone can enjoy us.

From access ramps to making washrooms disabled-friendly, we’ve been taking initiatives over the years to make our restaurants friendlier for the disabled. But this particular inclusivity initiative takes the crown and has been introduced in most of our key restaurants.

This was born out a research we did with DDB, which was a key partner in designing this months ago. When the two of us decided to work on this initiative, we worked with an NGO who advised us. And because it was a speciality area, we thought it was best to approach a specialist on how to go about it.

The pack looks deceptively simple from a design perspective. But a lot of effort went behind to make sure that a person can easily open it, handle it and eat his favourite burger from it.

We will soon launch this feature on our McDelivery app and will approach it channel by channel. From the customer perspective, it’s an optional packaging and nobody has to pay anything extra for it.

Considering the last 2-3 months, are people returning to dine-in at McDonald’s restaurants, or does take away and delivery reign supreme?

Dine-in is slowly and steadily coming back. For example, we can see our highway stores, especially drive-throughs, doing very well. Also, dine-in is doing very well in smaller markets like Baruch, Kolhapur, Nellore and Tirupati. At the same time, I will say that convenience channels like takeout and delivery continue to do very well.

We’re growing our delivery channels very rapidly and while that happens, it’s heartening to see dine-in make a comeback.

With most office-goers working from home or in a hybrid model, are you worried about its impact on your breakfast menu?

Breakfast will return slowly because, at the end of the day, it depends a lot on people’s mobility. As offices and other places open, we will definitely see breakfast come back.

Any plans to make the breakfast menu a 24x7 offering?

Not at the moment, but we are definitely keeping our eyes open for such opportunities and will be the first to take them up.

What about McCafe? Have the COVID lockdowns and the increased focus on health and fitness adversely affected it?

We haven’t seen any such trends. Our McCafe shakes are doing very well and we do see people’s pre-pandemic routines return. People are indulging themselves, but the frequency of such indulgences are lower than what they were before the Coronavirus struck. But we are seeing them return slowly.

At the end, people look for quality and hygiene. McDonald’s stands for all of these, and that’s what is getting people back to us.

How do you appraise competition that are not only longer fast food QSRs, but independent restaurants and ones specialising in one single dish such as biryani or a dosa?

All the brands are good for the growth of the industry. A customer needs options, and at the end of the day, the customer is king. McDonald’s is poised for fast growth because of all these new brand introductions. We will maintain our leadership, thanks to our wide and diverse menu.

Digital or TVCs, what will lead your marketing efforts?

While traditional media remains important, I think the focus is shifting towards digital. The adoption of digital has accelerated, especially in the last one year. There are two aspects here:

One is the adoption of digital in terms of e-commerce. You will see online delivery accelerate. We are well-poised with McDelivery to further the growth of our e-commerce business.

Second is that digital has slowly and surely influenced our behaviour. So, we’re investing a lot behind digital in terms of content, engagement…