Big Mac to join strawberry set

TENNIS fans at Wimbledon this year may find themselves presented with a novel and agonising gastronomic choice: whether to go for the traditional strawberries and cream or a more contemporary strawberry milkshake, Big Mac and fries.

Visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show or the Epsom Derby may also be thrilled to discover that they can take the edge off their hunger with a Filet-O-Fish or a Chicken McNugget. Or they may not.

Gardner Merchant, the group that supplies catering to many prestigious sporting and social events, is planning a link- up with McDonald's to introduce the US hamburger chain.

'We hope we will have McDonald's installed at one or two of our sites this year,' said Bob Cotton, communications director of Gardner Merchant. The companyhas not finalised which sites or events will be chosen.

As well as Wimbledon and the Flower Show, Gardner Merchant holds the catering concessions at 3,000 sites, including opera houses, golf tournaments, universities and hospitals. Many of these may eventually receive the McDonald's treatment. Gardner Merchant would allow the hamburger group to operate its own outlets rather than franchising them.

The scheme is part of the fast-food group's policy to reach customers beyond its normal high-street audience. McDonald's already has outlets at Heathrow Airport and Guy's Hospital.

Last week the group's chairman and chief executive, Michael Quinlan, said that the group planned to double the number of UK outlets to more than 1,000 in the next 10 years.

The fast-food chain's main rival, Burger King, part of the Grand Metropolitan drinks group, signed a franchising deal last October with another caterer, Compass.

Burger King has already been introduced to several Compass concessions such as Aintree and Cheltenham race- courses, and Heathrow, Gatwick and Dublin airports.

Fast food frenzy, page 3