How entrepreneur Paul Crocker built up a group of 17 McDonald's franchises across Kent

Sitting in the office above his Margate restaurant, Paul Crocker breaks off our interview to quickly order a salad and a fruit bag for his lunch.

It is an increasingly common, although not typical, order from customers at his group of 17 McDonald’s sites across the county, where he has been leading a modernisation programme.

Nearly all have been updated with a transformation costing more than £1m each, mainly revamping the kitchens and ordering points to allow staff to cook everything from scratch without sacrificing time.

McDonald's franchise boss Paul Crocker
McDonald's franchise boss Paul Crocker

“When I started, I always believed the primary driving factor with customers in McDonald’s was speed of service,” said Mr Crocker, who employs more than 1,700 people.

“That has gradually changed and what has become important is the quality of food and McDonald’s have really taken notice.

“You don’t see Big Macs waiting for you now. As you buy it, we make it and because we make everything fresh, we’re able to offer greater variety.

“Now you see less tills but more self-order points, where you can order at your leisure and pay through your phone.

“I remember, years ago, coming in once with my three little girls, one of whom was in a pushchair, and it was teeming and we had to fight our way to the till. Now you can go straight to your seat, place an order at the kiosk and be given table service.”

“I remember, years ago, coming in once with my three little girls, one of whom was in a pushchair, and it was teeming and we had to fight our way to the till. Now you can go straight to your seat, place an order at the kiosk and be given table service...” - Paul Crocker, McDonald's

Paul Crocker started his career as a riding instructor at his parents’ riding school in Leicester in what he says was “an enjoyable lifestyle but not a profitable one”.

His father also owned a small group of petrol stations in Kent, which he joined aged 23. They became partners and grew to about eight across the county over 12 years.

He eventually decided to sell the business in 1994 as competition from supermarkets increased pressure on the sector.

Mr Crocker opened his first McDonald’s franchise the following year in Margate, which remains the headquarters of the business today. He said: “From there, one by one, I worked my way into owning a bigger group. It’s a great system if you commit yourself and put the effort in.

“If you look after your people and your customers, then your business will grow and the opportunity to buy more restaurants comes along.”

Paul Crocker and staff at the McDonald's drive-thru in Orbital Park, Ashford
Paul Crocker and staff at the McDonald's drive-thru in Orbital Park, Ashford

Fiercely protective of its reputation, McDonald’s has given Mr Crocker opportunities thanks to his reputation for growing sales.

His company’s latest accounts show turnover increased 9% to £52.9m last year – with a 10% increase in like-for-like sales – while pre-tax profits shot up 85% to £3.2m.

Since 2014, his group has grown from 10 restaurants to 17. Revenues have grown 112.3% in the last three financial years, making his firm the 17th fastest-growing private company in Kent in this year’s MegaGrowth 50 list.

The latest bid to grow turnover has been hiring his 25-yea r-old daughter, Rachel, as manager of his Ashford branch.

He said: “She’s doing a great job with the sales there. I’m hoping she keeps up my good name.

“Sales to me is key. It’s the biggest measure of your success. If the customers like what you’re doing, they’ll come back.”

How have you managed to build your McDonald’s franchise group?

“The top line at McDonald’s is sales. They want you to do everything right, to be involved in the community, to look after your people and do a lot of auditing to make sure we don’t let down the brand. If you do everything right, you increase sales and if you do things particularly well you increase them more. McDonald’s is a competitive environment and they love to send out statistics and leagues so you can see who is doing the best. Through the success I’ve had in building sales, they have continued to offer me the opportunities to expand into current restaurants.”

How do you increase sales?

“The biggest thing is motivating your people and trying to make sure their goals and ambitions align with your own. We have generous bonus schemes and we make sure rewards and aligned with customer satisfaction and sales growth. Everyone who works for me should have the same aim to please the customer and increase sales.”

What do you make of zero hours contracts?

“All our surveys always show when people are asked what they like about McDonald’s they always say the people they work with and the flexibility of hours. Whatever they want I can usually find a way of doing it. However, we are now offering contracted hours to them to nullify the negative connotations with zero hours contracts. We don’t have those any more.”

Do you have any concerns about spending as much as £1.6 million on renovating all your restaurants?

“Sometimes it means a massive investment but the result is the customers like it more and they come back. I don’t know whether I make more money but I certainly make more sales and if you’re satisfying the customer, that feels like success to me.”


Born: 22/4/1959 in Leicester

School: Gateway Boys Grammar School

Live: Whitstable

Family: married to Kim with three daughters and one son

First job: Riding instructor

First wage: £25 a week

Salary now: “It changes according to the business needs. It’s enough.”

Favourite book: Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Music: U2 and modern pop

Film: Lion

Car: Aston Martin DB11

Last holiday: Majorca

Charity: RMHC

Typical day

On a Monday, Paul Crocker cycles 20 miles to the office in Margate, where he will do “eight hours at my desk and in meetings”.

On other days in the week he will drive unannounced to one of his restaurants and work there for three to four hours before another two to three hours of emails and then heading to another restaurant for another few hours.

Some days a McDonald’s representative will meet him for a regular audit.

“My prefered days are the unannounced days where I go to a restaurant. You get to see what the manager’s priorities are.”

On Fridays, he does a gym session before arriving at work at about 11am and finishing at about 8pm.

He works most Saturdays and occasional Sundays but tries to take a day off during the week. “It’s really varied and that’s the big thing.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More