PARIS: Attempting to counteract a recent spate of bad press and prepare for significant expansion over the next 10 years, McDonald's/France has decided to devote more of its annual 50 million dollars communications budget to PR.
The company, which operates 791 restaurants in France, plans to open another 800 in the country before 2010. Sales last year exceeded 1.5 billion dollars.
Two recent court cases have proven a PR nightmare for the fast-food giant.
One lawsuit involves activist Jose Bovis, who tried to prevent the opening of a new outlet in southern France last year and has since become one of McDonald's most vocal critics. The second revolves around the firing of an employee who gave a free Big Mac to an elderly woman who was unable to pay for it.
McDonald's/France chairman Denis Hennequin has attempted to address the incidents himself - last month, he wrote a letter to employees explaining the company's side of the story - but is said to have accepted that better PR efforts are needed. To this end, McDonald's has brought Euro RSCG Corporate on board to run a public image campaign.
According to a McDonald's spokesman, the move toward PR was motivated by 'the piling up of several bad media incidents.' He added that the PR push will also involve a substantial lobbying component.
The lobbying part of the overall effort will focus on the fact that McDonald's employs 30,000 people in France and creates more than 2,000 new jobs each year. It will also urge politicians to take anti-McDonald's vandalism more seriously than they have in the past.