Women to Watch 2010

Women to Watch: Danielle Paris

Director-Product Innovation, Development Menu Management, McDonald's USA

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The recession hit the restaurant industry pretty hard, as consumers ate more at home, and many segments saw the biggest decline in a generation.

At McDonald's, however, same-store sales grew 3%. A big reason for that was the chain's combined beverage business, a multi-year initiative that has brought lattes, cappuccinos, frappes and smoothies to the Golden Arches. Now visitors to McDonald's are trading up to more expensive beverages they might otherwise have bought at Starbucks or Jamba Juice, but for $1 more.

Danielle Paris has played an integral role in this coup. In 2003, she was given the responsibility of developing high-quality coffee for the chain. Back then, it was an almost unthinkable task. Premium roast coffee, however, rolled out in 2006, and coffee sales grew 20%. The coffee success boosted McDonald's overall breakfast business along with the chain's credibility in the area -- many would say opening the door to the success of McCafé espresso-based drinks three years later. Total coffee sales have continued to grow -- 30% in 2008, and another 25% in 2009.

"It was so refreshing and exciting to work with her as she learned about every aspect of coffee," said Deborah McDaniels, senior director-menu management, McDonald's USA. "She is graciously inquisitive and is passionately driven to find answers to every aspect of the projects she works on."

To get the right coffee, Ms. Paris said she traveled to the major coffee-producing countries to meet suppliers and develop a blend that would be right for McDonald's customers throughout the U.S. (The Boston and Albany, N.Y. markets, for instance, use a Green Mountain blend.)

Moving forward, Ms. Paris said the biggest challenge "is just continuing to build on positioning McDonald's as a beverage destination," which means "providing exciting new products that have great taste, [and in line with] what consumers are looking for." To discern what that is, she said, "we spend a lot of time talking to consumers, and we are nimble enough to be able to adjust to what their needs are."

Ms. Paris joined McDonald's in 2002 after a 10-year career in the restaurant industry as a member of the global menu management team. She helped implement McDonald's menu management process in Europe, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa segment.

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