15 October 2018 | Story UFS | Photo Leonie Bolleurs
Town planning- How McDonalds did it
Celdri de Wet, centre, gave students and staff examples of how town planners can join local insights with their professional techniques in a collective attempt to improve the quality of places. She is pictured with Peter Mokonyama and Refilwe Khabe both master’s students in the Department Urban and Regional Planning at UFS.

I’m lovin’ it. Bright red with two yellow arches. What comes to mind? 

Yes, it’s McDonald’s, one of the top brands in the world with 35 000 restaurants internationally, serving 17 million people in 121 countries. 

In South Africa, there are 264 McDonald’s outlets with more than eight million customers a month. 

Hands-on experience shared

These successes come with hard work and smart thinking. The type of thinking students in the Department of Urban and Rural Planning are equipped with at university. Celdri de Wet, an alumna of the University of the Free State (UFS) and National Manager: Real Estate and Assets at McDonald’s South Africa, addressed the Planning students and staff about what it takes – and what to look for – when establishing a McDonald’s outlet.

Since town planning has to enhance people’s opportunities, it strives towards justice regarding space, and addresses economic resilience. Maléne Campbell, Head of the Department Urban and Regional Planning at the UFS invited De Wet to share her hands-on experiences with the students and staff in the department.

About retrofitting

According to De Wet a fast-changing environment needs to find new spaces, referred to as retrofitting. A number of factors must be kept in mind when applying retrofitting in a space. One of these is culture. What is the culture of the community where you are planning to open a McDonald’s outlet? Is there an eating-out culture or do people in the neighbourhood rather enjoy home-cooked meals? 

Culture eats strategy for breakfast said De Wet. “Town planners need to understand the buying patterns of consumers,” she said.

Property giant makes a difference


Another important criterion town planners need to look at is mobility patterns. Is the outlet accessible and is it near spaces where people already meet up?

McDonald’s, which came to South Africa in 1994, is a property business owner, said De Wet. It is one of the largest property owners in the world. In South Africa, it owns 100 of the properties of its 264 outlets. 

The property giant does however give back to the community. Besides providing employment for 12 000 people, training to 1500 (formal training) and 3000 (informal training) and increasing property values, it has also created a space for people to connect and to make memories. And that is why you need to love them.