HAMBURGER giant McDonald's is expecting to return its Irish operations to revenue growth this year after holding local sales steady at the €200m mark during the 2009 recession.
The prediction comes as the Big Mac seller kicks off a fresh marketing blitz with a €1m Eurosaver campaign launched this week. McDonald's is planning to up its marketing spend by 10pc this year as it attempts to lure in "new customers" with offerings like Eurosaver premium coffee.
The fast food giant is also hoping to open three more Irish outlets in 2010, bringing total numbers here to 81 and triggering an investment of €10m.
Meanwhile, existing outlets are expected to boost their sales by "3 to 5pc" next year, according to McDonald's Ireland marketing boss Lucy Murray, leading to "moderate growth" across the Irish operations.
Ms Murray said McDonald's Eurosaver menu had "insulated us from the worst of the excesses of the drop-off in consumer spending", as customers flock to buy €1 and €2 products.
The fast food giant is playing to the same theme in its home territory of US, having recently introduced a $1 breakfast to arrest a marginal fall in like-for-like sales in October and November.
Back in Ireland, McDonald's is planning to expand that Eurosaver menu to 10 items in 2010, bringing in premium coffee, salads and apple bags for the first time, along with staples like twisty fries.
"We're hoping to bring in new customers with the new menu; for instance, a lot of people have never tried McDonald's coffee, but they might come in and try it now," Ms Murray said, adding that the chain could "absolutely" make money from the Eurosaver menu's price points.
The newly-launched advertising campaign, marking McDonald Ireland's first animation departure, is a key part of the fast food giant's play to change Irish people's image of McDonald's. "We see it [the higher marketing spend] as an investment," said Ms Murray.
""People know McDonald's stands for value, but we stand for a lot more than that," she added, pointing to the chain's move into salads, fruits and coffees.
Beyond this year, McDonald's is hoping to add another three outlets in both 2011 and 2012, investing about €10m each year, following on from a €14m investment in four new outlets in 2009.
The group's Irish headcount now comes in at more than 3,500, including 40 head office workers. McDonald's is also the largest purchaser of Irish beef in the EU, spending €55m on the product every year for restaurants in the UK and Europe.