In Metz, the beginnings of McDonald’s were “very difficult”: this manager tells

At 76, René Kuppens joined the McDonald’s adventure in Lorraine nearly 40 years ago. (©Antony Speciale/Lorraine News)

The American fast food giant, McDonald’s, opened its very first restaurant in France 50 years ago, in Creteil (Val-de-Marne)June 30, 1972. This one lost its license and is no longer considered the first today.

In 1979 arrived the one who is officially recognized as the first, to Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin). Then in 1980, Metz (Moselle) has become the third French city where the brand with the golden arches has established itself, opposite the Place de la République.

In 1983, a man took control of this restaurant as well as that of Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle) : Rene Kuppens. Nearly 40 years later, the Belgian entrepreneur, now 76, is at the head of a small empire in Metz and its outskirts. He comes back for Lorraine News on its history.

“We had to reorganize everything”

René Kuppens recounts: “I was sent by McDonald’s Belgium to take charge of the restaurants in Metz and Nancy”. He remembers the first “very difficult” years for the American brand in Lorraine.

At first it was catastrophic. Our stores were run by young managers with little experience and there was a mess. But month by month, things got better.

Rene KuppensManager of eight McDonald’s restaurants in and around Metz

The entrepreneur assures that what allowed McDonald’s to take off, “is the authorization to be able to advertise a product on television”. In this case, advertising for the Big Mac in the 80s helped to popularize the sign among the French.

The McDonald's on the Place de la République during the celebration organized for the restaurant's 10th anniversary in 1990.
The McDonald’s on the Place de la République during the celebration organized for the restaurant’s 10th anniversary in 1990. (©DR)

1992, a pivotal year

The years go by and 1992, René Kuppens chose to sell his restaurant in Nancy to focus exclusively on the development of McDonald’s in Metz and its surroundings. “I chose Metz because, unlike Nancy, it’s a high town. I needed this. Then, it brought me closer to Belgium by 60 km”, certifies René Kuppens.

He continues: “We are opening a new restaurant in Augny, but there was hardly anyone on the Zac at that time, we were all alone”. In addition, “we launched the first drive de Lorraine on this store, but it took a long time before it was actually used”, specifies René Kuppens.

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At the same time, another restaurant is a hit in the city center of Metz: that of the Palace Street, a stone’s throw from the cathedral and 500 m from its big brother on Avenue Robert-Schuman. On the other hand, “not only did this lead to a loss of attendance at Place de la République, but it did not help the restaurant in Augny to get started either”, underlines their owner.

The McDonald's on rue du Palais has been successful since its opening in 1992.
The McDonald’s on rue du Palais has been successful since its opening in 1992. (©DR)

Multiple openings over the past 30 years

The 90s saw McDonald’s mushrooming all over France. The territory of Messin is not exempt: in 1996, the restaurant in Saint-Julien-lès-Metz opened next to Kinepolis, a few months after the arrival of the cinema complex. Then in 1997, the McDonald’s in Borny opened its doors.

Then came the 2000s and always the same dynamism: the point of restoration of Marly opened at the end of 2000, that of Boulevard de Trèves arrives in 2011 and the last, in wave shopping centerin 2015.

Its management team, its greatest source of pride

When you ask René Kuppens what are his best memories, there is one that particularly comes to mind. And this continues every day.

My best memory is my management team. It has about thirty people who have been there for 30, 35, even 40 years. They continued until the end and are gradually beginning to retire, having spent most of their career at McDonald’s.

Rene KuppensManager of eight McDonald’s restaurants in and around Metz

Asked about a possible retirement, the septuagenarian admits “at some point, I will have to stop, but I intend to keep one or two restaurants”.

Anyone who “loves his job precisely because he has the impression of not working”, so passionate is he, intends to carry on his activity for several more years!

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