Meet the Team Making McDonald’s Restaurants more Modern, Sustainable, and Welcoming
March 20, 2023
Think about the last time you stepped inside a McDonald’s restaurant. Did you notice anything that surprised you?
Perhaps you enjoyed table service for the first time or lounged in the comfort of a stylish interior. Many McDonald’s restaurants, both inside and out, look and feel different than they did in years past – and that’s no accident.
Meet Nika Samedova and Silke Korporal: two women who are helping change the way McDonald’s restaurants look and feel around the world. Combined, Nika and Silke have spent more than a half century working under the Golden Arches, and their work can be seen at McDonald’s restaurants around the world.
Together, they're challenging the status quo to make McDonald’s restaurants more modern, sustainable and welcoming for customers and crew.
“It never gets boring,” Silke says.
How Nika and Silke’s Careers Crossed Paths
Silke – now McDonald’s Lead for Global Design Standards – started her McDonald’s career as a restaurant crew member in Hamburg, Germany at age 18. “I wanted to buy designer jeans, and I needed a job,” she remembers. She worked at the restaurant throughout her time at university, and ultimately landed a job with the German McDonald’s development department after graduating and becoming a trained architect and urban planner.
Because of her experience as a restaurant crew member, Silke always pays attention to how small changes to restaurant design can impact the people working there. She’s proud that McDonald’s invites architects the company works with to experience a “restaurant day,” where they spend time in a McDonald’s kitchen to understand where changes may be necessary.
“It’s so important to consider the crew’s perspective,” Silke says.
Nika, who was raised in Azerbaijan, began her career with an approved design and production supplier for McDonald’s in the United States. Years later, Nika joined McDonald’s, and she and Silke became coworkers at the McDonald’s Design Hub in Europe. Now, they’ve worked closely together for more than a decade, with Nika ascending to Global Restaurant Design Lead – IRLX (In Real Life Experience) and New Format Design.
For years, Nika dedicated her efforts to enhancing the family and play experience for customers in McDonald’s restaurants, including re-imagining McDonald’s play strategy and deploying new solutions across markets. Nika has helped bring many family-focused McDonald’s restaurants to life, with her current favorite located in Fulvio Testi, Italy.
Today, Nika leads the development of design concepts and in-restaurant solutions suitable for a wide range of customers, occasions, locations and store types. This means that she’s the mind behind many of the things customers see, feel and experience when they visit McDonald’s restaurants.
Silke, meanwhile, leads the technical and material side of restaurant design development. She works with external design agencies, whose drawings are turned into prototypes and value engineered, and helps select raw materials that meet our high sustainability and quality standards. Silke also works closely with the McDonald's Global Strategic Sourcing Services to ensure countries receive the best materials to maintain the caliber of their unique spaces. All these steps result in the creation of restaurant standards, product catalogues and design guidelines.
Transforming The McDonald’s Customer Experience One Restaurant at a Time
One of the highlights of Silke’s career thus far has been helping McDonald’s improve the customer experience by integrating self-order kiosks and table service into restaurants.
“Table service allows people so much more time to relax,” Silke explains. “It can feel like an elevated experience.”
Another highlight of Silke’s career has been helping McDonald’s become more sustainable. She helps discover building efficiencies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sources more sustainable materials that help McDonald’s improve its carbon footprint.
Nika is equally as passionate about keeping McDonald’s agile as the world keeps changing. “Different restaurant formats and new building types with full ranges of fulfillment channels for our guests are new ways to push boundaries,” she says, adding that McDonald’s is challenging the status quo through innovative thinking and approaches.
As delivering great “on-premise” experiences remains one of McDonald’s key business priorities, Nika is dedicated to ensuring restaurant design creates feel good moments for customers and employees.
“We want our spaces to feel comfortable and playful, and we encourage cheerful gatherings and carefree moments in our restaurants,” she explains.
One of the projects she’s most proud of is renovating the McDonald’s restaurant she would visit as a little girl.
“I remember waiting in line to visit my first McDonald’s restaurant 30 years ago,” Nika says. “Years later, I was part of the team that modernized that very restaurant.”