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Fast Track: A-Z of employers: McDonald's

Age: 25 years in the UK.

History: The first US restaurant opened in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955, and in 1974, McDonald's Golden Arches Restaurants Ltd was set up in the UK as a joint venture between the US restaurant chain and two businessmen, one of whom was British. By 1983, McDonald's Corporation was the sole owner of the UK branches. The price of a Big Mac has quadrupled since the early days: from 45p to pounds 1.84.

Address: Headquarters are in Oak Brook, near Chicago: UK head office is in East Finchley; regional offices in Glasgow, Salford and Sutton Coldfield.

Ambience: Offices are open-plan - bright, airy, and friendly. The only person in the company to have an office door is the chairman, "but it's always open". Operations management use a hot-desking system.

Vital statistics: The first UK restaurant was the 3,000th branch, and there are now more than 23,000 in 110 countries serving 38 million customers. The UK's restaurants employ 38,233 restaurant staff, 2,746 managers and 679 office staff. In addition, more than 12,000 work for McDonald's franchised restaurants, which make up 26 per cent of the UK total. Total sales in 1997 came to pounds 1.088bn. This year, the company hopes to create 5,000 new jobs with 100 new restaurants.

Lifestyle: According to a spokeswoman, "there's no limit to how far you can progress": within two years of starting, you could be running a restaurant with a turnover of a million quid and a staff of more than 60. Trainee business managers may also get to assist with opening new restaurants: 30 from the United Kingdom are on secondment in countries including South Africa, Iceland, and Pakistan.

Easy to get into? No: of last year's 9,900 graduate applicants for the business management trainee scheme, just 7 per cent were hired. No specific degree is required, but candidates should be "people" people. "Organisational skills, planning, decision-making, teamwork, leadership and communications are important," says a spokeswoman. For those who want to be accountants with the company, it's even harder to get in: 200 people apply for just two places, although you don't need an accountancy degree to get in. For application details for both schemes, call 0181-700 7000.

Glittering alumni: Alan Shearer and David Platt are the company's current television representatives.

Pay: Trainee managers start at pounds 14,000 (plus regional weighting), plus benefits. Restaurant managers earn from pounds 18,000 to pounds 29,000.

Training: The company is accredited with the nationally recognised "Investors in People" award. The Management Training Centre in East Finchley is the national facility, providing training for around 2,500 managers per year.

Facilities: Subsidised lunch is offered at all offices and East Finchley and Salford offices have on-site health centres.

Who's the boss?: Chief Executive is Andrew Taylor, who rose through the ranks having joined as a Management trainee in 1979. Chairman is Paul Preston.