Foodservice Operator of the Year

By Andy Hanacek, executive editor

J.C. Gonzalez-Mendez, senior vice president of supply chain, McDonald’s North America
Congratulations J.C. Gonzalez-Mendez on being chosen as National Provisioner’s 2007 Foodservice Operator of the Year!
Your vision has helped McDonald’s deliver value, taste and product innovation to billions of customers who love the Golden Arches. Under your direction, the McDonald’s supply chain continues to serve as the industry standard.
As a long-time supplier to McDonald’s, North Side Foods is proud to work with forward-thinking professionals like you who exemplify McDonald’s values and commitment to excellence.
Your leadership in the McDonald’s family is appreciated throughout the supply chain and we applaud you for your accomplishments over the years.

Congratulations again,
Robert Hofmann, Mark Hofmann and the entire North Side Foods Family.
When a company fires on all cylinders and is at the top of its game, it’s always tough to keep pushing the envelope, redefining its product mix, juggling its relationships with suppliers and keeping its most important asset — its customers — happy and satisfied. In the world of foodservice today, innovation doesn’t always come with the needs of customers top of mind. Yet, McDonald’s USA, which is soaring along in the foodservice world, has continued to improve across all facets of its business by, most importantly, always putting the needs of its customers first.
With that in mind, The National Provisioner honors J.C. Gonzalez-Mendez, senior vice president of supply chain for McDonald’s North America, with its inaugural Foodservice Operator of the Year award.
McDonald’s consistent success in the U.S. has kept it ahead of the curve in the foodservice business, led by timely innovation, continual self-review and analysis, and the relationships cultivated by its “Three-Legged Stool” business philosophy.
Supplier relationships cultivated by McDonald’s supply chain, led by Gonzalez-Mendez and his team of around 50, best exemplifies this approach, and those relationships are the superior element that other businesses often lack.
Gonzalez-Mendez explains that communication between each leg of the stool is wide open, and each leg carries equal weight in making decisions. Franchisees make up one leg of the stool, employees — from the crew room to the board room — make up the second leg, and its more than 250 suppliers comprise the third leg.
 “It is, without a doubt, an intrinsic part of our business success — the fact that we treat them as partners and not solely a transaction between two entities,” Gonzalez-Mendez explains.
The Three-Legged Stool helps support McDonald’s key strategy — serving customers a quality meal every time — and each element of the business does its part to keep customers satisfied. According to Danya Proud, spokesperson for McDonald’s USA, this is the foundation on which McDonald’s is built and along with the U.S. Plan to Win is heralding much of the business success.
“Our recent business performance is a strong indication that McDonald’s Plan to Win is working. The collaboration between McDonald’s U.S. leadership, our franchisees and our suppliers is best reflected in 48 consecutive months of positive U.S. comparable sales. New menu introductions including the Snack Wrap, Premium Roast Coffee and additional customer conveniences — such as Arch Cards, cashless payment options and extended hours of operation — continue to resonate with customers, ” she says.
However, she adds, part of the reason the success continues is that no one, particularly those in supply chain, is complacent or satisfied with current results. Gonzalez-Mendez agrees, explaining that no matter what success the company experiences, employees must continue to push themselves toward perfection.
“Although we are pleased with our progress, McDonald’s USA, our franchisees and our suppliers are absolutely committed and remain focused on doing even more to consistently deliver a great restaurant experience for every customer at every visit,” he says. “We’re so proud of what we do — we celebrate success, but we use it as the next benchmark,” he adds. “If we did better today than yesterday, that’s a good thing; but you had better do even better tomorrow! Our founder once said, ‘There’s no standing still. You either move forward or backward. You can’t just rest on your laurels.’”
Keeping employees driven to those goals might seem a monumental task, but fostering a teamwork-based atmosphere is easy, Gonzalez-Mendez says, when all employees, franchisees and members of the supply chain love what they do. At McDonald’s, that is part of the culture.
“We all have ketchup in our veins,” he says. “Anybody can make a hamburger, or a great-tasting chicken sandwich, but the diligence, the passion, the ‘never being satisfied’ attitude and the excellence in everything we do at McDonald’s is what separates us from other companies.”
That passion extends into the supply chain, where quality and innovation are always of the utmost importance. McDonald’s routinely surveys its suppliers and continually works in partnership with them to address opportunities and meet their needs to help benefit the system. In fact, the supply-chain team found out last year just how far out from McDonald’s the passion extends.
“What makes me feel good is that when we asked our suppliers, as part of our supplier opinion survey, ‘How committed are you to McDonald’s?’ they were offended,” he says. “They said, ‘Commitment is an understatement. We’re branded.’”
Also a result of that survey, the innovation process is going through a thorough review with McDonald’s Supplier Advisory Council, a dozen suppliers who focus on serving the greater good of the restaurant system, while serving as a sounding board for McDonald’s Supply Chain.
“We have engaged them, and with their help, we’re trying to improve our protocols so that they can get the ideas they have as quickly through the pipeline as we need them to,” Gonzalez-Mendez explains.
Each decision on McDonald’s docket percolates through the commitment to best serve the whole system, and ultimately to best serve McDonald’s customers — all 25 million of them everyday in the U.S. The supply chain department’s ability to anticipate business needs, plan and think ahead has also helped significantly by enabling the company to deliver a consistent, high-quality product at a great value, keeping the best interests of the customers and the entire system at the forefront of decision-making.
“Something I’m very proud of is the ability we have to continually predict and maintain affordable pricing for our restaurants and our customers,” he explains. “Being in the commodity markets, that’s difficult to attain.”
Case in point, Gonzalez-Mendez says, is the recent escalation of the price of corn and its general lack of effect on McDonald’s menus across the country, despite its wide use in a multitude of areas.
“We have been able to, by planning ahead, lock in pricing that has been very advantageous to be able to continue to provide our customers with great quality menu items, at a value they have come to expect from McDonald’s — such as items on the Dollar Menu, for example.”
Gonzalez-Mendez explains that, regardless of what happened on the commodity market, McDonald’s would not have jeopardized quality in order to deliver value to customers through any aspect of the menu, and will not in the future.
“The fact that you have a Double Cheeseburger on the Dollar Menu today doesn’t mean that the quality of that burger is any less — we would never do that; we’re about quality,” he says. “But we needed to do different things to our planning processes to make sure that we were able to have that predictable, stable pricing, so important to our franchisees and ultimately, to our customers, ”
Delivering a consistent value and quality product should keep customers happy and walking through the doors of McDonald’s or driving up to drive-thru windows for many years to come. Furthermore, McDonald’s ability to focus on its customers’ desires, even through the supply chain, is certain to keep it among the frontrunners in foodservice innovation.
By partnering with its suppliers as well as its franchisees and employees for the greater good of the customer, McDonald’s has set a precedent for itself that has not faltered in its 52 years of business — a standard by which the industry can benchmark success.