A GRADUATE who became managing director of McDonalds in two countries and chief operating officer of the UK chain is now running the franchise of York’s five restaurants.

John Atherton joined McDonald’s 33 years ago, after finishing university. An eager crew member learning the ins and outs of working at a McDonald’s restaurant, he quickly progressed to restaurant manager.

Thanks to the training opportunities on offer and internal support to progress, Mr Atherton continued to grow within the company very quickly and was soon overseeing the operation of 500 restaurants.

His career at McDonald’s didn’t stop there and after moving to head office, he took up a number of roles, including chief operating officer for the UK business and chief executive of McDonalds Nordics.

Two years ago, Mr Atherton gave up corporate life to move back and settle in his native Yorkshire where he invested his life savings into acquiring the franchise of four restaurants in York. Just before Christmas Mr Atherton expanded to a fifth restaurant at Poppleton, and has recently invested in a digital transformation of the restaurant in Clifton Moor Centre to improve the customer experience. His other restaurants include York's city centre McDonalds in Blake Street, Monks Cross, and the York Designer Outlet branch.

What job would you like to have other than your own and why?

"As a massive foodie, I would absolutely love to be a restaurant critic, especially in York where there is so much choice. Imagine being paid to dine in some of the best restaurants in the world."

Greatest achievement?

"I’ve had such a varied career with McDonald’s, but I think coming back to Yorkshire and being able to operate as a franchisee has been the biggest highlight.

"As a local businessman I am able to get involved in community projects such as supporting grassroots football – just last year we donated a kit to the Poppleton Juniors FC. On a personal level, the thing that has made me most happy is the birth of Fred, my grandson."

What makes you most angry?

"I get frustrated when people do not keep their commitments - businesses like mine are built on the commitment of the staff I employ."

Biggest mistake?

"Not seeing David Bowie in concert when I had the opportunity to."

What do you need to make life complete?

"A granddaughter to keep Fred company."

Why do you make a difference?

"I am passionate about those that I work with meeting their full potential, as we offer fantastic career opportunities to those willing to put in the hard work. You can go so far with McDonald’s - more than 40 per cent of our executive team started their careers working in restaurants!"


"I would hope that people would think simply, ‘what a nice bloke’."