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More Than a Happy Meal: Joachim Knudsen

Considering the ever-expanding McDonald’s menu, it’s telling that Joachim Knudsen’s favourite item is none other than the brand’s signature offering, the classic Big Mac, renowned the world over. In the same sense, as a business leader, he is a firm believer in the importance of staying true to the brand’s roots and core offerings at the same time as evolving.

Joachim Knudsen, Managing Director of Food Folk Sweden

“The industry, as well as McDonald’s, has changed tremendously over the past 10 years in particular,” Joachim tells The CEO Magazine.

“We’re still in the business of selling burgers and fries, but the customers’ expectations are constantly changing over time, and you need to be extremely respectful of the feedback you’re getting from them. That’s one of the greatest strengths of this brand.”

While the restaurant giant, which needs little introduction, has always been well ahead of its competitors with regards to the speed at which it operates – from how quickly customers are served to the rapid rate at which the food is ready to eat and packaged for consumption – Joachim explains that McDonald’s is constantly looking for ways to improve and enhance the experience.

“We need to be even faster and more convenient – not just in terms of getting the food, but also about the way you order, be it in the Drive-Thru or the kiosk in the restaurant,” he shares.

We’re still in the business of selling burgers and fries, but the customers’ expectations are constantly changing.

“The next generation is so reliant on digitalisation, which is also influencing our business, with us working on things like mobile orders and payment, so that guests can have a seamlessly convenient experience from right in their pocket. It’s about being authentic and sticking to the core of our business, in combination with evolving our variety of menu items and approach.”

When Joachim joined McDonald’s in Denmark in 2010, he brought with him a wealth of knowledge garnered over his career, which included 11 years at Danish beer goliath Carlsberg. Honing his leadership skills as he progressed throughout the ranks, he was appointed Managing Director of Food Folk Sweden. He is now based in Stockholm and also holds the role of Managing Director for McDonald’s Sweden – the largest market in the Nordics. “Being a great leader is about creating results through the people,” he reveals.

“We are at our core, a people business. And that demands empathy and persistence at the same time as being valuedriven. Of course it’s about addressing issues and the short- and long-term priorities for the business, but it’s really all about creating results for people. We’ve got to build the right team to create success and, for me, that’s what makes it a great place to work and a great brand. People are the engine that keep propelling us forward.”

Joachim explains that essential to the entire success of the business is its reliance on dependable, trusted suppliers.


“Those relationships are incredibly important,” he says. “That’s the legacy of the company on a global, as well as a local level. At a Nordic level, we believe that long-lasting partnerships with suppliers gives us the best, both in terms of day-to-day stability within our supply chain set-up, and also in terms of making sure that suppliers are innovating on behalf of us and creating niche solutions that ultimately gives us the competitive advantage in the market.”

Joachim continues: “At the core of our business is a three-legged stool – the company, suppliers and franchisees. The strength of these relationships with franchisees was brought into focus last year with the challenges of the pandemic where we had to focus on Drive-Thru and delivery instead of bringing guests inside the restaurants in Sweden. It was the tremendous efforts from the franchisees, their teams in the restaurants and the office staff that made this transition possible.”


While it may have begun as a distinctly American company, today McDonald’s is a picture of diversity – one of the most recognised brands to have ever existed, boasting franchises in every corner of the globe.

“We are adding a great number of restaurants in Sweden, amounting to 30–40 restaurants over the next five years,” Joachim says. “We’re expecting to open up an additional 2,000 job opportunities across the country thanks to this expansion.

“We are a value-driven company and have always been focused on our cultural foundation,” he continues. “It’s about getting the best out of all the different cultures, alongside the McDonald’s culture. We’ve spent a lot of time translating the core values of the brand to our 10,000 employees in Sweden.

That will always be an extremely important part of our business. I’m certain that this year we’ll be stronger than ever before, by making sure that we have the best people to take care of the best guests.

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