What does it say about the hospitality industry when only one company from the sector is able to sneak into a recent Times listing of the 50 top places for women to work in the UK – and that company is McDonalds? Eating and drinking-out is one of the country’s major markets, both in terms of size and growth, but it continues to suffer from a poor image as an employer. The Times initiative to find the top places where women want to work, which was open to all private and public sector organisations with over 1,000 employees, only helped to confirm the stereotype about the catering and drinks business. An off-the-record seminar for senior executives from restaurant and pub groups, which I chaired in London last week, highlighted this very problem. The evidence is that the best operators, both big corporates and smaller entrepreneurial operations, well understand the issues and are committed to developing strong people-focussed cultures within their businesses. Their focus is very much on nurturing and developing talent within their own organisations, and word of mouth recommendation remains the most powerful and effective external recruitment tool for these market leaders. But can the success of these individual enterprises be enough on their own to change the wider public perception of the industry? It’s a tall order. Mistrust of the catering and pub industries as poor payers offering undervalued jobs runs deep. Overcoming such entrenched attitudes is a long battle. The sector as a whole has to rise to the challenge and start portraying the positives of the business – and that means making heroes of those companies that are creating positive working environments and motivated, loyal teams. Which brings us to McDonalds. Forget the McJob propaganda, McDonalds is one of those heroes. It has one of the best employee retention rates in the business, and, as its success in the Times listing shows, wins over its people, particularly women. This past year McDonalds has actively challenged some of the public stereotypes about it, which resulted in it being rated one of the top 15 in the country by the Times when it came to innovative recruitment. It launched the ‘Not Bad for a McJob’ advertising campaign. Using phrases such as McFlexible and McEquals, it highlighted the high ratio of women in management roles and its family-friendly shift arrangements, including its unique family contract that allows employees from the same family to cover each other’s shifts without prior notice. Problem is that too many in the hospitality industry fall into the trap of believing what the national media and consumer press say about McDonalds. Sadly, that includes much of our own business press, where it’s rare to find even a mention of our biggest foodservice chain much less anything complimentary. We are badly in need of heroes to emulate and promote, and McD’s is one we should be proud of. It’s perhaps time we started to learn to love McDonalds a little more. That would be a welcome first step in convincing the world that this business is worth joining. Peter Martin is co-founder of M&C Report and founder of Peach Factory.