LOVING IT

Panama 2018 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Loney Armijo, Managing Director Panama and Costa Rica of Arcos Dorados Central America, on building a high-quality work force, offering products unique to Panama, and maintaining its leading market position.

Loney Armijo
BIOGRAPHY
Before joining McDonald’s, Loney Armijo worked for 10 years in the car rental industry. His career at McDonald’s began in 1997 in Puerto Rico. One year later, in 1998, he returned to Panama occupying different management positions in operations. Since 2009, he has been the Managing Director of Arcos Dorados Central America, a franchise that operates the McDonald’s brand in Latin America and the Caribbean with responsibility for the operations of Panama and Costa Rica, and support for Central America. In his 20 years of experience with the brand, he has gained expertise and continuously served with passion.

How would you describe the evolution of Arcos Dorados in Panama and in Central America over the years?

After Costa Rica, Panama was the second country in Latin America to have the presence of McDonald's. Since 1971, when the first McDonald's opened, more than 60,000 Panamanians have been part of the McDonald's family. Arcos Dorados started its operations in Panama in 2007, and it is the largest franchise of McDonald's in the world and has the exclusive right to own and operate the brand in 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. During these 11 years in the region, the company has established more than 2,100 McDonald's restaurants. Until 2007, Panama had 36 McDonald's, but that number has almost doubled over the past 11 years, reaching more than 70 restaurants nationwide. Our success is based on five fundamental principles that are part of the brand promise: quality, service, cleanliness, value, and experience. Those who help us guarantee the fulfillment of these maxims and lead the operation are our collaborators, out of which 80% are young people between the ages of 18 and 22; we focus on giving them constant training through digital platforms and training centers, special benefits, and growth opportunities.

With more than 70 restaurants in Panama. What are your next expansion plans?

We keep our commitment to Panama, which is evident in our leadership and competitiveness in the fast food category during these 47 years. We are committed, in every action, to the communities in which we operate, promoting entrepreneurial spirit and operating with economic, social, and environmental responsibility. The constant growth of the brand is reflected throughout the last 10 years, during which we have operated more than 70 restaurants and nearly 40 dessert kiosks, reaching areas such as Changuinola, Penonomé, Colón, and central provinces, among others. Each new restaurant represents nearly 50 new jobs, offering an opportunity for young people who wish to enter the workforce for the first time, as well as an important boost to the local economy.

What do you identify as the main differences between the Panamanian market and the rest?

Each market is different; the secret to success is knowing the particularities of each market and the tastes and preferences of our clients. As a franchise in charge of the operation of the restaurants of Latin America and the Caribbean, Arcos Dorados must adhere to the global guidelines established by McDonald's. This implies the compliance of all the quality standards, security controls, global guides for restaurant design, and brand image management. We adapt to local tastes, offering our customers exclusive products both permanently and for special moments of the year. For example, in Panama we offer Desayuno Típico, which has the option of corn tortilla or yucca and meat croquettes, accompanied by sausage, pressed white cheese, and scrambled eggs, a favorite dish in the countryside. Such initiatives enable the company to cater to the needs and wants of different countries in which we operate.

What are your main objectives for Arcos Dorados for the coming year?

Since its arrival to Panama in 2007, the company has invested nearly USD50 million in the expansion of the brand and in educating, training, and developing its collaborators. In terms of our future plans, we will continue with the strategic expansion plan in the country while keeping our commitment of providing our customers with high-quality products, service, and offers. Moreover, we cannot forget the impact of the generation of youth employment. In Panama, we are the leading fast food company in terms of opportunities for new workers, because we believe young Panamanians to be the leaders of our restaurants. The average age of our management staff is 27 years, a number that dips to 22 years for our regular collaborators. The people we employ are the biggest reason behind our growth and success.