McDonald's takes on pizza for Italy growth spurt

Wed Jan 9, 2013 11:01am EST
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By Francesca Landini

MILAN (Reuters) - U.S. fastfood giant McDonald's (MCD.N: Quote) believes recession-hit Italy will be one of its higher-growth areas in the coming decade and is opening more than 100 new restaurants to convert pizza-lovers to its burgers.

In a country where foreign investment has fallen by almost 30 percent since 2007, McDonald's Italian arm plans to spend 350 million euros ($457 million) and hire a further 3,000 people by 2015 to boost its market share.

"We believe in Italy, and we have convinced our shareholders in the United States that the Italian market has a potential we can exploit," McDonald's Italia Chief Executive Roberto Masi told Reuters in an interview.

In a country that has been stuck in recession since the end of 2011 and where unemployment is at a record high, McDonald's has trumpeted its pledge to raise its local workforce by 15 percent to around 20,000 over three years.

The U.S. group, which first set foot in Italy 27 years ago and was initially met with suspicion in the land of pizza and pasta, has launched a full-blown advertising offensive playing to Italians' patriotism.

"Italy is a democratic republic founded on work," reads the ad printed in Italy's biggest newspapers since the start of the year and citing the first article of Italy's constitution.

"We will create 3,000 more jobs. This is our way to show we believe in Italy," it says.

In the TV version of the commercial, shot by Oscar-winning Italian director Gabriele Salvatores, three young staff members in trademark uniforms tell how good it is to work for the chain's fast-food restaurants.   Continued...

A McDonald's staff member serves soft drinks at their fast food restaurant in downtown Milan October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini