McDonald’s NZ: Having coffee with your critics



McDonald’s can be seen by many to be a faceless multinational and is used as the posterchild for a myriad of issues and causes. While a lot has changed since the days of Supersize Me and Fast Food Nation, McDonald’s knows it need to continually evolve, take its responsibilities seriously and act in the best interests of the communities in which it operates. 

Our role is an ongoing one - to support the McDonald’s team in gathering feedback from some of its toughest critics on how the New Zealand business might do things differently with regards to nutrition and health.

Our approach

Engaging with key stakeholder groups is almost always worthwhile. Not ignoring but connecting with foes and equally friends, often presents benefits for all parties.  Network’s FoodGroup brings groups together across the food, nutrition, and health sectors and enables meaningful, and genuine engagement with the McDonald’s NZ team.

The FoodGroup has worked with McDonald’s for over a decade, helping to build a track record that illustrates the mutual value of engagement and discussion for McDonald’s and nutrition and health professionals.

To support the McDonald’s team with these meetings, the FoodGroup team acts as the translator (the scientific dialect is full of idiom and acronyms), knowledge-imparter (evidence-based science is our strength), and collector of perspectives (who is advocating for what, and where and how they are communicating it).

The conversations debate the philosophical and practical, with the McDonald’s team collecting feedback and action points against which they can then report back in the future.


Stakeholders are not always going to agree, but engagement is an important tool for opening the door to conversations that sometimes otherwise wouldn’t happen. It’s also an ongoing effort and commitment so that over time all sides have the opportunity to have their voice heard, foresight into the direction of consumer trends, and the ability to access and share key information and insights.

In the early days McDonald’s spokespeople felt like they were being led into the lion’s den. It was also important to tread carefully in order to preserve the independence and professional credibility of individuals and groups.

Today meetings between stakeholders can be much less formal and are more likely to take place over a coffee, putting a human face to a global brand. And while those involved don’t always see eye to eye, there is a mutual respect and acknowledgement that conversations are genuine, constructive and can lead to positive outcomes.