Michel Réglat details the forty years since the creation of the first Mc Donald’s in Toulouse, place du Capitole. An anniversary that takes on its full dimension at Galerie Daudet from April 20 with the exhibition of three local artists.
Forty years ago, you opened the first Mc Donald’s in Toulouse, place du Capitole. What memories?
It was an extraordinary adventure for which, moreover, I was in no way prepared. Since after training in the luxury hotel industry, I am preparing to leave for Tehran… Before turning around and accepting the offer from the McDonald’s franchise.
Tell us how this project was born in Toulouse?
In 1979, the first Mc Do was born in Strasbourg simply because the European headquarters was located in Frankfurt, Germany. Along with Metz Nancy, it was the only city to have a McDonald’s. For my part, I had taken over the family café Tortoni on the Place du Capitole, a meeting place for young people since the post-war period. For three years I worked in this cafe without too much conviction. One day I sold the business and it was Mc Do who bought it. One of the associates asked me to become a franchisee. After refusing, I accepted.
The Mc Do adventure starts from that moment.
Absoutely. Yet at first, we do not believe it. How could such a restaurant, symbol of junk food, succeed in the city of cassoulet? And yet, from the first day, without organization, it was a tidal wave. The brand delivered by the Metz platform once a week saw its fridges empty from the second day of opening. From this dazzling success, the Mc Do company understood the opportunity to develop the brand in other cities in France.
Why, in your opinion, such success, from the outset?
Simply because McDo brought something else at a time when everything was moving. Identified as very local with paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec made by local artists, the place was immediately seductive. Besides, each McDonald’s in France had its own touch. For example, the McDonald’s in Lille offered beer. A drink quickly prepared in all McDonalds in France. Moreover in 2022, Mc Do remains, in each city, the biggest seller of beer.
Who were the customers then?
Everyone. Students of course, but also the curious. Families who broadcast celebrate a birthday. For the kids, it was freedom, games, permission to play, to leave the table, etc. You imagine !
Do you have an anecdote about this beginning?
In 1983, I met Ray Kroc, founder of Mc Do. An impressive little man on his wheelchair who, straight in the eyes, asks me, looking skeptical: “How many McDonald’s do you plan to open in Toulouse?” “. And me and my 26 years, I answer him “at least three”. This audacious answer seduced her.
Was the quality there?
Not at all. It was bad. Butter ham with bread from the day before. Four a la carte sandwiches. The choice was quick. Some time later, I met Jean-Pierre Petit, who later became one of the presidents of McDo, who would transform everything. Just like the communication agency BDDP which was going to falsify the brand and print the change by paying for the sign, the first advertising film “We met at Mc Do”. In 1998, during the Football World Cup, Fabien Barthès also made the event by doing an advertisement for Mc Do.
Are there many other key dates?
A whole bunch ! In 1987, there is the launch at Mc Do Portet-sur-Garonne, of the first drive. A revolution for the Toulousain who can then order from his car… Not forgetting in 1994, the Ronald McDonald Foundation at the Purpan hospital which allows hospitalized children to remain surrounded by their parents with Vincent Clerc as godfather. So many things have been done in forty years: from the José Bové affair to environmental, social and food issues. Subjects hitherto taboo and raised in 2000 by Jean-Pierre Petit, then president of Mc Do. Such as in 2008, selective sorting, recovery of rainwater or photovoltaic panels. So many advances praised at the time by the press and even by Greenpeace. Moreover, we are continuing the journey since on January 1, 2023, the dishes from the take-out sale become reusable. McDonald’s has changed a lot.
When artists celebrate Mc Donald’s
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this Toulouse brand, a major exhibition by three renowned Toulouse artists (Alexandre Nicolas, CEET and Fred Manenc) will take place from April 20 until May 11 at the Galerie Daudet (10 rue de la Trinité In Toulouse). Selected theme: Mc Donald’s in vintage mode. Original works specially designed for this anniversary and to be won by the public. To participate, info: www.liste-restos-mcdo.com