McDonald's Lancashire: meet the man who owns all the stores in Blackpool, Preston, Chorley, Leyland, Fleetwood, Lytham & Cleveleys

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Take a look at our exclusive chat with the businessman who owns eighteen McDonald's across Lancashire as he reveals what it’s really like to be in charge of one the most popular franchises in the world.

65-year-old Nigel Dunnington is the man behind all the McDonald's in Preston, Blackpool, Chorley, Leyland, Fleetwood, Lytham and Cleveleys.

Originally from Yorkshire, the franchisee has lived on and off in Lancashire since 1982 but has lived in Garstang with his family since 2006 - the year he took over his first five stores.

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The Post were given the exclusive opportunity to chat to Nigel about everything McDonald's, from what his favourite order is to what the benefits of being a franchisee are and whether he plans to open anymore stores in Lancashire -have a read of Nigel's replies below...

Nigel Dunnington is the franchise owner of 18 McDonald's across Lancashire. Credit: National World and GettyNigel Dunnington is the franchise owner of 18 McDonald's across Lancashire. Credit: National World and Getty
Nigel Dunnington is the franchise owner of 18 McDonald's across Lancashire. Credit: National World and Getty | National World and Getty

How did you end up becoming a McDonald's franchisee?

The businessman explained: “I first started working for McDonald’s 44 years ago, so I’ve been with McDonalds’s for most of my career! I started off as a Trainee Manager at London’s Marble Arch restaurant back in 1980 and since then, I’ve had so many development opportunities both locally, nationally, and internationally. From rising through the ranks in Marble Arch, to running Blackpool Bank Hey Street in 1982 a few years later. I also held various roles such as Regional Manager, Chief Operations Officer for McDonald’s, and I also did a secondment heading up Operations and training in Chicago in the early 2000’s before becoming a Franchisee in November 2006. I took over five restaurants in Preston (Friargate, Fishergate, Leyland, Deepdale and Capitol Centre) and haven’t looked back since!”

Why did you want to become a franchisee?

Nigel answered: “Being part of the McDonald’s business for so long and towards the end of my corporate career, although I really enjoyed what I was doing, I was at a stage in my life where I wanted to spend more time with my family and less time on the road or in aeroplanes. I love being at the front end of the business and wanted to rekindle that by becoming a Franchisee and making a positive difference in the area. It gave me the chance to make local decisions that are right for this business, our customers, and crew members.”

Why did you settle in Lancashire once you became a franchisee?

Nigel said: “It’s important to me to be living in the area where my restaurants are. I think it’s vital when you’re running a business to be in touch with local customers and to understand what’s important to them, as well as the challenges they face and to keep up to speed with what’s happening locally. In business if you are to be successful you must stay relevant to your customers, once you lose that relevance you run the risk of business starting to taper off.”

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(Top L clockwise): McDonald's on the Capitol Centre, Preston; on Bank Hey Street, Blackpool; delivery site only in Preston; and the store in Thornton-Cleveleys.(Top L clockwise): McDonald's on the Capitol Centre, Preston; on Bank Hey Street, Blackpool; delivery site only in Preston; and the store in Thornton-Cleveleys.
(Top L clockwise): McDonald's on the Capitol Centre, Preston; on Bank Hey Street, Blackpool; delivery site only in Preston; and the store in Thornton-Cleveleys. | Google Maps

What benefits do you get out of being a franchisee?

He replied: “Getting to meet the community and talking to people from all walks of life on a daily basis! As a Franchisee, I know lots of our customers very well and they’re always quick to give me hints and tips of how we can do better (they generally don’t hold back) which is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. It’s always interesting to get their perspective on all things - not just McDonald’s - but events locally and globally. None of them seem to be short on opinions which is great. From a local perspective, this insight really helps paint the picture of what’s happening in the area, how they feel about it and importantly, how it affects them.”

What do you enjoy most about being a franchisee?

Nigel answered: “I get the most out of seeing talent flourish and progress in the business… being a talent spotter is what I really enjoy. Over the past 18 years, there have been many crew members rise through the ranks in all capacities - with some now becoming Business Managers and beyond. I really enjoy having a positive influence on people’s lives, career choices and personal developments. Occasionally new staff join the business and are very shy, quite often it’s their first job, however, very quickly they make close friends and gel within the team and very soon they get comfortable with the role. Their confidence grows as they get used to the hustle and bustle of working in a McDonald’s restaurant.”

Which of your restaurants do you feel most sentimental about?

The father of two replied: “I don’t have a favourite restaurant, it’s like saying which is your favourite child. I am lucky to have 18 restaurants from Fleetwood and Cleveleys, down through Blackpool, Lytham, Preston and into Chorley and Leyland, they all have a vital role to play in the success of this business.”

What do you and your team do for the local community?

Nigel said: “Giving back to the local community is something I firmly believe in, and my teams across all eighteen restaurants do so much in this area! Last year, they raised over £40k for Lancashire-based community projects and charities alone, by organising fun days and events. We have fantastic relationships with the Foxton Centre, Age Concern, Derain House Children’s Hospice, St Catherine’s Hospice, Trinity Hospice, and local foodbanks to name a few. Most recently in January, we visited the Foxton Centre and handed over a cheque of £5,703.67 from activities and donations raised from September to December, 2023.

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“We also do lots of work with Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, which provides free home away from home accommodation for families with sick children in hospital. Our local house is Manchester and many families in Lancashire depend on their services. I now also sit on the special events fundraising team for the charity in the northwest and held previous roles such as being on the board of governors and chaired the fundraising committee for the Manchester House. 

“And in a sport capacity, we sponsor seventeen grassroots football clubs. To make their passions become a reality, we also sponsor up and coming local talent such as muay Thai fighter – Eleanor Fellows as well as being a sponsor of Fleetwood Town FC.”

The Preston McDonald’s team handing over their raised funds to the Foxton Centre.The Preston McDonald’s team handing over their raised funds to the Foxton Centre.
The Preston McDonald’s team handing over their raised funds to the Foxton Centre. | submit

What has been the funniest story from your time as a McDonald’s franchisee?

He replied: “In 2019, Fleetwood McDonald’s went viral on social media when tens of thousands of people were asking Fleetwood Mac to come to Fleetwood Mac’s. The band got to hear about this and told us that they may struggle to get up to Fleetwood but would some of our crew like to come to Wembley as their guests and meet the band – obviously the answer was yes, so on the train 20 of us got and had a great time meeting up with the band for photos before the gig. The team then went off out into Wembley Stadium to listen to the enchanting voice of Stevie Nicks – brilliant!”

What is your go to order?

Nigel said: "My go to is a Filet-o-Fish® or maybe a Sweet Chilli Wrap, they are probably my go-to orders and I love my daily Flat White. Like many of our customers, I like trying out the new products that are only on for a limited time. My current favourite is the Steakhouse Stack!"

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What are you looking to achieve in 2024?

Nigel answered: “The past few years have been challenging for everyone – from navigating the pandemic to the cost of living crisis. Going into 2024, value will always be a cornerstone of our strategy and it is arguably more relevant than ever right now, if we’re able to offer great value, together with great tasting food and great service that’s a great platform to continue to grow our business.

"When it comes to our restaurant teams, it is vital to me that our people feel valued, motivated, respected, and supported, if our people are happy our customers are generally happy and that’s a great recipe for success."

But are there any plans to open more McDonald's in Lancashire?

Nigel revealed: “I am always looking for opportunities to grow the business. We currently employ around 2,200 people across H&S Restaurants and that’s something I’m hugely proud of. In terms of new restaurants, if it makes sense locally and the opportunity is there, and McDonald’s are happy with that then who knows?"

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