In March 1986, Peter and Nelly van Gelder opened their McDonald’s restaurant in the Woensel shopping centre. Seven years later, in October 1993, the couple started their second McDonald’s in Best. After nearly four decades, Peter and Nelly think it’s time to slow down. Their two restaurants are being taken over by a couple from Tilburg.
Before his time at McDonald’s, Peter served in the Royal Navy. When he saw an ad from McDonald’s looking for franchisees, he immediately responded. “As a qualified chef, I always wanted to have my own restaurant. However, I never imagined this would be a McDonald’s.” After they returned from Curaçao, Peter first received internal training and had to take various courses to master the entrepreneurship of the business.
Nelly, originally a dance teacher, planned to occasionally help her husband in the business but then never left. “Opening my own ballet school turned into baking hamburgers. I never regretted it because it was a very nice time, with a lot of dear colleagues and a lot of nice customers. After the opening of the Woensel branch in 1986, a second McDonald’s was added in 1993, next to the new A2 motorway in Best.
Peter: “We wanted to run it, but we also wanted to decorate the restaurant in our own way: completely in the style of the 1950s. So, we filled it with jukeboxes and old cars from that time. Eventually we got permission, and we were the first McDonald’s in the Netherlands with a fifties diner style. Later, we adapted everything, with the very first McDonald’s in the United States as an example.”
For years, McDonald’s in Best was best known for its huge image of Michael Jackson. “It was indeed, an eye-catcher,” said Nelly. We gained national, and even international fame because of it and we met Michael Jackson. Four years ago, however, we decided to remove the image. There was a rather controversial documentary about the singer, and it caused a lot of negative comments.”
Yesterday was Peter and Nelly’s last day at work. “We now have more time for our hobbies”, said Nelly. “Peter is a cameraman at Local Broadcasting in Nuenen and likes to ride a motorcycle and I’m going to dance again. And we’re going to visit our son, who lives in London. Finally, the burning question: what is their all-time favourite item from McDonald’s? “The Big Mac!”, the Van Gelder couple shout in unison.
Translated by: Yawar Abbas