McDonald’s New Zealand Celebrates Maori Language and Culture

March 24, 2021

McDonald’s New Zealand celebrates indigenous Māori language and culture

Nau mai, haere mai ki Makitānara.

If you visited a McDonald’s restaurant in New Zealand this past September, that could’ve been how you were greeted when you walked through the door: by a crew member speaking the indigenous language of te reo Māori.

Te reo Māori is one of New Zealand’s three official languages, along with English and sign. Approximately 20% of New Zealand’s population identifies as Māori – largely mirrored in McDonald’s New Zealand’s 10,000 restaurant workers around the country.

McDonald’s & New Zealand Languages

McDonald’s language policy on the restaurant floor utilizes English for consistency, and avoid confusion, in country with a hyper-diverse mix of ethnicities.

Though this policy was developed to create inclusion, in some cases it did the opposite. Specifically, it sidelined an official language at a time when the normalization of the use of te reo Māori in everyday conversation was starting to be encouraged. McDonald’s is actively working to promote diversity and inclusion around the world – and we found we weren’t properly celebrating and supporting the Māori language and culture with our crew and customers.

Taking Accountability and Pledging to do Better

In pledging to do better, McDonald’s New Zealand consulted with the Te Taura Whiri |Māori Language Commission and McDonald’s employees, asking how the brand could take part in in the annual Māori Language Week each September. There were also restaurant-specific cases to learn from, where franchisees and staff worked with local tribes, or iwi, to bring Māori language into restaurants.

In 2020, McDonald’s New Zealand proudly celebrated Māori Language Week in all of its restaurants nationwide. Stickers and posters with te reo Māori translations were placed around McDonald’s restaurants to identify common objects. Some crew wore #korero pins to signal to customers they felt comfortable conversing in te reo Māori. All crew were encouraged to greet customers in Māori and guides were provided for things like how to order a McCafé coffee in te reo Māori. The language policy was also updated, and Māori now may be spoken among crew members – not just during Māori Language Week.

McDonald’s New Zealand has pledged to continue to do its part to help secure the future of te reo Māori as a living, dynamic and rich language. And as a global organization, McDonald’s is well-positioned to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion around the world.

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