In our regular series, industry big wigs take us back to their first jobs
Hi, Andy! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Andy Shovel and I run plant-based food brand, THIS™. Our mission is to force the world’s livestock into retirement. I don’t know what they’ll do if they do retire — maybe they’ll take up golf or gardening. But that’s why I turn up to work.
What what was your first McJob?
During school and university, I was one of those irritating nightclub photographers who would take pictures of people in nightclubs, then hand them a card where they could log onto a website and pay to download their photos. After university, I worked for a start-up company who made ready-to-drink cocktails. I left to start my own graduate recruitment company, Recruitment Squared, which I sold in 2011. I wanted to start a restaurant business, so decided to get a job at McDonald’s to learn how fast food restaurants operate.
What did you have to do?
I was mostly on the chicken station, making chicken burgers and serving chicken nuggets. Occasionally I would help with the Big Macs, although I’d usually get them wrong and add the wrong toppings. Sometimes I’d help with chips, but I wasn’t allowed on the tills. To this day, I don’t know why. I don’t think the manager liked me very much.
How did you get the job?
It was actually quite challenging. I got rejected from three branches — High Street Kensington, Kings Road and Earls Court — as apparently I was overqualified. Eventually I applied with a very minimal CV to give the impression that I wasn’t going to immediately leave. I ended up working at North End Road McDonald’s in Fulham.
Did you feel a bit beneath yourself?
Absolutely not. It was great experience insofar as McDonald’s are — in my opinion — the slickest restaurant operator in the world. If you come the job with your eyes wide open, you can learn a lot about how to run a business. It was an honest day’s work, and tough because I didn’t get on with my manager. After about four months, he called me into his office, I assumed to fire me, so I resigned instead.
What did you do next?
I went on to found a fast food and delivery burger restaurant, Chosen Bun. We used patented packaging to ensure the food travelled really well. This was before Deliveroo, so we had a fleet of 20 motor and electric bikes delivering all over Southwest London. A fast food operator acquired us in 2016. I decided I wanted to move into sustainable food, and founded THIS™.
What did you learn from McDonalds that you still use today?
One of the things you learn is that you shouldn’t move more than about two steps from your station during a rush. It increases efficiency if everyone’s not running around, bumping into each other. I learned mundane things like how to operate a proper cleaning regime, staff scheduling, and team thinking.
What would happen if you went back and worked in McDonald’s today?
I think I’d struggle because I have less energy that when I was 23. I remember finding a double shift really tiring back then. Now, I’d probably fall asleep during the shift! I’d probably be more precious about cleaning the loos, which I had to do very frequently, because the manager didn’t like me.
Did anything particularly funny happen?
I was lucky to go to private school and so had a really privileged start in life. This guy from the year above saw me working at McDonald’s, but I couldn’t chat to him, since I wasn’t allowed to shout at customers from the kitchen. Expecting me to have made the most of my amazing education, he gave me this disappointed and sympathetic look, like I’d thrown it away — all communicated in one look across the store.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would it be?
Probably to think much bigger, and not get bogged down in the trenches. Try to to think three quarters ahead, and not fight fire in the now.