Scotland’s first McDonald’s swung open its doors in Dundee 35 years ago this month.
The new restaurant lit up Reform Street, offering locals cheap, tasty American-style fast food late into the night.
Then-manager Dave Jeffrey, from Angus, was working in Birkenhead when he was asked to help open the branch, branding it “too good an opportunity to turn down”.
Dave, 61, recalls being “neck in neck” with Kirkcaldy to be the first McDonald’s north of the border – beating them by just three weeks in November 1987.
“We got the glory on that front,” he told STV News. “Getting a McDonald’s was a big thing at the time.
“There wasn’t anything like it at all – the quality, the design, all stainless steel and chrome. That hit a lot of people right in the face.
“You could see the building with the big golden arches and the level of awareness was building. It got more high-profile as the opening drew nearer due to the press.”
More than 70 staff were recruited from across Dundee to work at the restaurant – many of them teenagers who were “keen as mustard”.
The opening week was the second busiest in McDonald’s UK history at the time. It took the restaurant another 20 years to beat that week’s sales.
Hundreds lined the street outside McDonald’s that November morning to taste their first ever Big Mac with ice hockey players from the Dundee Tigers invited to cut the ribbon.
Bosses were forced to draft in more staff and stock from northern England to cope with demand.
“We used three days’ stock in the first day,” Dave said.
“But we enjoyed the busy days – there was a bit of adrenaline and you had to keep it fun. When people went home at the end of the day, they knew they’d worked a shift.”
The McDonald’s menu at the time was nowhere near as extensive as it is now – a no-frills selection of burgers, chicken nuggets and fries, along with milkshakes and fizzy drinks.
A number of famous faces passed through the doors of the Reform Street branch over the years.
Pete Doherty came in for his breakfast one morning ahead of a Babyshambles gig in 2005, chatting to customers and staff.
“He wasn’t causing any problems, but he got alcohol taken off him by police when he went outside later,” said Dave. “It was funny, considering it was half eight in the morning.”
And then there was children’s TV presenter Andi Peters, who was in Aberdeen for filming, who Dave remembers as a “thoroughly nice guy”.
Meeting new faces and making memories was all part of the fun for Dave, who eventually became a franchisee before leaving the company in 2014.
He had gone from seafaring with the Merchant Navy to becoming a trainee manager with McDonald’s in Merseyside in the 1980s.
Tongue-in-cheek, Dave recalled the “culture shock” of being asked to host a kids’ birthday party on his first day in the job – but he never looked back.
“I still run into people who used to work there too – a couple of bus drivers, a doctor and a solicitor,” he said. “It’s good to catch up with them and find out how they’re getting on.
“McDonald’s has changed so much – the technology and the way they prepare things, but it’s amazing to see how far it’s come.
“I’m proud to have been a part of it.”
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