How McDonald’s created the UK’s first net zero restaurant

Wind turbines and solar panels power the grills of the UK’s first net zero restaurant

Anyone who bought a burger on December 10, 2021 at the McDonald’s Market Drayton branch would have made history. The site is officially the first net zero carbon restaurant for McDonald’s UK & Ireland – and also for the UK in general. But as Beth Hart, vice president of supply chain and brand trust points out, customers at the opening may not have realized this importance.

“It was really important to us that our zero-carbon restaurant look the same as a classic McDonald’s, so that we can continue to provide that consistent experience that our customers have come to expect from us,” she explains. “I’m not sure every guest even knows they’re visiting such an iconic building.”

Although the Shropshire-based site may appear to be the same as the other branches, its sustainable innovations make it anything but, designed as it was to meet net-zero emissions standards in construction and day-to-day operations.

The restaurant has been checked against the UK Green Building Council’s net zero carbon building framework, which defines a net zero building as one that removes as much or more CO2 from the atmosphere as it emits through its construction and its operations. (However, McDonald’s does not account for emissions linked to its ingredient supply chains, including beef, a move that has drawn criticism from some environmental activists who believe any food retailer selling large quantities of meat cannot never be truly net zero.)

Sustainable design

Going forward, all new builds at the fast food giant will operate to the same plan as Market Drayton and its existing estate will be upgraded to meet new sustainability standards, with the aim of decarbonising the 1,400 UK outlets of McDonald’s UK & Ireland by 2030.

“It’s an opportunity to test and learn, so we can create a blueprint and introduce sustainable innovations to our freehold new builds and existing sites as we renovate,” Hart says.

A look at the structure of the Market Drayton restaurant reveals walls insulated with British sheep’s wool, diverted from landfill, cladding made from recycled IT equipment and white household items such as washing machines, and curbs outside that had been 200,000 plastic bottles in a former life. The manufacture of each curb produces 25 kg less carbon than its concrete equivalent.

The restaurant’s drive-thru lane is made of recycled tires, a material that produces less CO2 and absorbs more water than conventionally. The neighborhood children have designed a biodiversity garden, which collects rainwater from the car park, and a nature trail, creating an additional link with the community. The restaurant is powered by two on-site wind turbines and 92 m2 of solar panels, which together produce a total of 60,000 kWh of energy per year.

The innovations continue inside, with all furniture made from 100% recyclable materials. Striking artwork made from recycled polystyrene cups is affixed to the wall with the company’s potato starch, while the wall panels are made from used coffee beans.

Incorporating these resources into the interior design has helped create more possibilities for circular waste systems. The company has pledged to give a second life to all waste collected from its restaurants through recycling, reuse or composting by 2027.

McDonald’s is well known for its excellent supplier relationship management based on enduring, long-term partnerships, and it’s no surprise to hear Hart say that supplier relationships were “absolutely essential” in driving such an ambitious project.

“We had to tear up the rulebook and change our whole philosophy to build to deliver [this],” she explains. “We challenged our suppliers to think differently and go further as we sought to eliminate carbon-intensive materials wherever possible in the design and construction of the building.

“For example, we worked with a supplier to take an existing durable surfacing material traditionally used for sidewalks and make it work for our drive-thru, reinforcing the material so it could also withstand the pressures our lanes are under. drive-thru. like the test of time.

Local suppliers, local delivery

Hart and his team were also keen to source from the UK wherever possible and worked closely with suppliers to relocate furniture and upholstery manufacturing overseas. “It was a demanding mandate, but our suppliers really knew how to seize the opportunity,” she says.

As with so many others, the coronavirus pandemic has provided another challenge to construction. “We had to work hard to effectively manage our supply chain in these difficult circumstances,” Hart recalls. “Adapting to hybrid planning meetings was a novelty at first, but quickly became an essential part of day-to-day project delivery. It was essential to ensure that we had clear and continuous communication with all our suppliers throughout the process. »

McDonald’s is perhaps the most iconic brand in casual dining – those golden arches are recognized the world over. As the world’s largest foodservice retailer, with 38,000 restaurants in 100 countries, it often finds itself in the spotlight. As the public expects companies more than ever, they must be an example of responsible business practices.

McDonald’s UK and Ireland business and sustainability strategy 2021, Plan for Change, tackles this issue head-on, with a number of ambitious targets, including achieving net carbon footprint zero across the entire value chain by 2040. zero emissions by 2050) and helping 1 million people learn new skills by 2030.

“Our supply chain is key to helping us meet many of the commitments set out [in the plan]says Hart. “Whether it’s having customer packaging made from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2024, using deforestation-free soy in our ingredients and animal feed by 2026, and that our offices and restaurants achieve zero emissions by 2030. It was imperative that we engage our suppliers before the launch [of the plan] so that they align with our objectives and understand the active role they could play. They are as driven by challenges as we are.

Relationships in confinement

The coronavirus pandemic has provided another challenge to construction. “We had to work hard to effectively manage our supply chain in these difficult circumstances,” Hart recalls. “Adapting to hybrid planning meetings was a novelty at first, but quickly became an essential part of day-to-day project delivery. It was essential to ensure that we had clear and continuous communication with all our suppliers throughout the process. »

McDonald’s is perhaps the most iconic brand in casual dining. As the world’s largest foodservice retailer, with 38,000 restaurants in 100 countries, it often finds itself in the spotlight. As the public expects companies more than ever, they must be an example of responsible business practices.

McDonald’s UK and Ireland business and sustainability strategy 2021, Plan for Change, tackles this issue head-on, with a number of ambitious targets, including achieving net carbon footprint zero across the entire value chain by 2040. zero emissions by 2050) and helping 1 million people learn new skills by 2030.

“Our supply chain is key to helping us meet many of the commitments set out [in the plan]says Hart. “From manufacturing customer packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified sources by 2024, to using deforestation-free soy in our ingredients and feed by 2026, and achieving zero emissions in our offices and restaurants by 2030.

“It was imperative that we mobilize our suppliers before the launch [of the plan] so they were aligned with our goals and understood the active role they could play. They are as driven by challenges as we are.

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