Behind the scenes at Blackpool's busiest fast food restaurant

Reporter James Graves with Aran Bottomley (Degree Apprentice) and Alex Upton (Business Manager at Cherry Tree Blackpool)
Reporter James Graves with Aran Bottomley (Degree Apprentice) and Alex Upton (Business Manager at Cherry Tree Blackpool)
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It is one of the most famous brands and restaurants in the world and Blackpool has six of them alone.

Many of us have eaten at McDonalds or visited the drive-thru on occasion with little idea of how our food is prepared.

The Cherry Tree Road McDonalds has more than 120 staff.

The Cherry Tree Road McDonalds has more than 120 staff.

Have you ever wondered what really goes on behind the counter are your order has been placed? And what do the employees make of it all?

The Gazette visited the McDonalds on Cherry Tree Road, the busiest in the resort, to find out as well as make one of the restaurant’s most famous items; the Big Mac.

When I arrived at the McDonalds on Thursday afternoon, I was greeted by Dawn Alderson who is the franchise supervisor for McDonalds in Blackpool and has worked for the company for 20 years.

Dawn, who lives in Starr Gate, has recently moved into the role and was previously the Cherry Tree restaurant’s Business Manager.

James gets to build his own Big Mac with the help of Aran.

James gets to build his own Big Mac with the help of Aran.

She explained how the company is more than just a fast food outlet and how it contributes to help the community.

Dawn said: “Last year our Squires Gate staff teamed up with the Friends of Highfield Park in order to do a litter pick in South Shore which was very successful.

“We are now hoping all of our Blackpool restaurants will be able to do something similar this year.”

Dawn’s replacement at the restaurant is 31-year-old Alexandra Upton from Wigan, who organised the events with Highfield Park.

The new Big Mac Bacon gets a thumbs up.

The new Big Mac Bacon gets a thumbs up.

She has been a business manager for the company for six years, the last two at the Squires Gate restaurant in South Shore.

Alexandra, who started at the company as a trainee crew member, gave me a tour of the busy kitchen’s and explained to me the different areas and processes the large team deal with.

She said: “We have more than 120 staff at this one restaurant alone and being the busiest McDonalds in Blackpool we have to make sure we stay on top of our game to offer our customers the best service possible.

“For example our drive-thru systems are run digitally. We have live figures on screens to show how efficiently we are performing

The restaurant is the busiest in Blackpool.

The restaurant is the busiest in Blackpool.

“We also get to see other McDonalds in the area and across the country so there is competition to be the best restaurant.”

One of the overall feelings I got was the amount of technology that goes into kitchens and orders.

The restaurant was converted four years ago and all the technology was implemented to offer customers more options on how they order.

This includes a ‘click and collect’ service, a mobile app that is one of the latest innovations from McDonald’s and aims to improve and enhance the restaurant experience for customers.

Self-service kiosks allow visitors to order at a speed that suits them, while easily accessing nutritional information and making informed food choices.

At the end of 2018, over 85% of McDonald’s restaurants across the country have been digitally transformed in the past three years.

Other digital features in the restaurants include free to use tablets, interactive magic tables for children and mobile phone charging points.

Following my tour of the kitchen, I got changed into my very own McDonalds outfit ready to make my own Big Mac.

I was assisted by 19-year-old Aran Bottomley, from Cleveleys, who is one of the company’s degree apprentices and has been at the restaurant since leaving Blackpool Sixth Form College.

He explained to me how he is in his second year of a study out of five of which he gains a degree at the end.

Aran said: “It has been great for me. I passed my first year in October and I have started my four-year university degree.

“McDonalds are supporting me the whole way through and it allows me to earn whilst I am studying. It has given me an opportunity I might not have been able to get anywhere else.”

Aran showed how the burger is constructed and how everything is precisely timed to ensure customers are not kept waiting.

The whole experience was a eye-opener for me and it proves everything is not always what it seems.

It’s still a Big Mac!

Unless you haven’t watched TV or listened to the radio in the past month, you will be aware that McDonalds have recently introduced a ‘Big Mac with Bacon’ with the advertising campaign ‘Is a Big Mac with bacon still a Big Mac’.

I got the opportunity to discover for myself both of the burgers and give my opinion - after making my meal first!

The overall process of ‘constructing’ the burgers are exactly the same, apart from the said addition of bacon.

Putting my cooking to the taste test, I tried both burgers back to back and I can conclude the Big Mac with bacon IS still a Big Mac.

Putting bacon on top of your Big Mac will be personal preference, but the overall same taste is still there.

If you fancy something more or less, a Grand Big Mac or Mac Jr are also on offer with bacon additions as well.