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McDonald's defies UK high street gloom with hiring plan for 20,000 new staff

Children peer out the window while eating hamburgers in a Chicago McDonald's restaurant, December 26, 2003. The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday it quarantined a second herd in Washington state as part of its investigation into the nation's first case of mad cow disease. Restaurant shares edged higher after sliding earlier this week on fears that consumers will shy away from beef because of of the mad cow case. McDonald's gained 13 cents to $24.09. CPROD REUTERS/John Gress  JG/GN
McDonald's is set for a push post-coronavirus lockdowns. Photo: CPROD REUTERS/John Gress JG/GN

McDonald's (MCD) is making a bet on the return of the UK high street with plans to hire 200,000 new workers and open 150 new restaurants.

According to a report in the Telegraph which quotes CEO Paul Pomroy, 50 new McDonald's are set to open in 2021 and 100 over the following two years, in a bullish bet on consumers returning to British high streets in their droves. 

It follows something of an existential crisis among retail outlets, as data showed the reopening of indoor dining failed to boost footfall in town centres. A widespread change in the habits of consumers, with many choosing a permanent shift to shopping online, has forced some to rethink business models. 

Pomroy noted that since people have begun to use high streets in a different way, local high streets will become more important and it is "up to [McDonald's] to make sure there are reasons for people to visit. 

McDonald's may face a challenge in recruiting, too, as the juncture of both coronavirus and Brexit has caused a crunch in UK restaurant staffing, with many businesses struggling to recruit. 

The move also comes amid a number of confident plays by US fast food chains in the UK. Wendy's, a chain known for its square burgers, said in May that it plans to launch up to 400 outlets nationwide, creating 12,000 jobs in the process, with 30 to 50 employees per restaurant.

The company which left the UK market 21 years ago after complaints over high costs, had planned to open its first store in Reading this month, followed by Stratford and Oxford.

In March, Popeyes, the fast food chain behind a chicken sandwich that bewitched the US, also announced it will launch in the UK this year.

Read more: Morrisons turns down £5.5bn takeover bid from US private equity firm

Popeyes created a storm in 2019 with the launch of its fried chicken sandwich, part of what became known as the "chicken sandwich wars" with rivals including Chick-fil-A and Wendy's. The new menu item caused an online frenzy and became a meme on Twitter (TWTR), prompting long queues, shortages, and even think pieces from the likes of the New Yorker.

The cult fast food chain plans to open its first restaurant in Britain by the end of 2021, with a goal of opening hundreds of restaurants in the coming years as part of a European expansion plan.

Watch: The history of the McRib

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