When Steve Easterbrook assumes the president and CEO posts at McDonald’s Corp. on March 1, he’ll bring to the job considerable experience in turnarounds and international market dynamics—two areas where his predecessor, Don Thompson, was spotty at best.
The two were more aligned when it came to digital technology, collaborating on rollout of such innovations for McDonald’s as remote-ordering and Apple Pay capabilities.
Easterbrook, currently chief brand officer, also has the advantage over his outgoing boss of having worked for other restaurant companies, a quality suddenly prized by McDonald’s board. The most significant executive change prior to yesterday’s announcement was the hiring last year of Mike Andres as president of McDonald’s USA. Andres worked for McDonald’s and its Boston Market subsidiary, left in 2012 to become president and CEO of Texas Roadhouse, and came back to the Golden Arches about two years later to head domestic operations.
In Easterbrook’s case, the United Kingdom native had brief stints as the CEO of Pizza Express, a quick-service chain with a considerable presence in the Kingdom, and Wagamama, a full-service noodle concept that has expanded beyond its U.K. roots.
His time in those roles was brief, amounting to a few years in total, or roughly from 2011 through 2013.
Before and after, Easterbrook, aged 47, was a dyed-in-the-ketchup McDonald’s man. He joined the chain’s U.K. operations in 1993 as financial reporting manager, and rose through a variety of jobs to CEO of McDonald’s UK in 2006, with responsibility for 1,200 restaurants.
Easterbrook distinguished himself by leading a turnaround of the U.K. market, a sucking chest wound at the time for McDonald’s. Some of the innovations being tried by the chain today in the United States originated in Britain, including the notion of opening the concept’s kitchens to consumers to reassure them about the wholesomeness of what’s served.
The turnaround also included an outreach to mothers, something echoed in the United States in such programs as McDonald’s appointment of a board of advisors consisting of moms, and a focus on so-called mommy bloggers.
Easterbrook also participated in a major sustainability in the U.K., The Prince’s Rainforest Project, an ecological effort of the royal family. He served on the steering committee.
Easterbrook moved to McDonald’s global headquarters, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, Ill., after he returned to the company in 2013.
McDonald’s has not named someone to succeed Easterbrook as chief brand officer. Some of his duties will presumably be assumed by Pete Benson when he steps into a newly created position of chief administrative officer on March 1.