Danielle travels the world to help create McDonalds coffee

Danielle travels the world to help create McDonald's coffee

 March 16, 2020

Danielle Paris is a member of McDonald's Culinary Innovation and Commercialization team who travels the world to help make the perfect blend of McDonald's coffee.

Sailing along the Alaskan coast working on commercial fishing boats; exploring Southeast Asia, enjoying Thai street food and an Omakase dinner in Kyoto, Japan; travelling to the mountains of Central and South America, meeting coffee farmers - these exciting experiences are all part of Danielle's career at McDonald's.

“I never want to stop learning,” she says. “After years of working for McDonald’s, I feel so proud to be working for a company that encourages creativity and challenges the status quo.”

Designing innovative menu choices

Danielle is responsible for innovating, designing and commercializing menu items through consumer-guided research and field testing – including her work elevating McDonald’s coffee through the creation of McCafé Premium Roast. 

And her path to McCafé, with all its twists and turns, is what makes her a valuable leader and culinary team member at McDonald’s.

Discovering her career path

Danielle grew up in a military family and lived abroad for much of her childhood, which she credits for her love of adventure. Her parents encouraged her and her sister to be curious and to explore different cultures. That sense of curiosity persists today, as she and her husband Bruce are avid global travelers and adventurous eaters.

But it was Danielle’s love of the sea that continued to grow most throughout her life. “I’ve always had an appreciation for the beauty of the ocean and the abundance of life below its surface. I’m also fascinated by how we feed our planet with food from the sea,” she explains.

So, she followed that passion and went to college at Texas A&M, graduating with a degree in Marine Science. She also earned an MBA in International Business.

Living and working on the Bering Sea

After graduating, Danielle wanted to learn more about commercial fishing, so she worked as a marine biologist monitoring fishing quota activity on commercial Japanese and American fishing vessels. She worked on deck and lived on trawlers in Alaska’s Bering Sea for up to three months per assignment.

But life on the Bering Sea was also breathtakingly beautiful, and working at sea was a rewarding professional experience. It was on those fishing boats that Danielle learned the importance of good communication: “It was an intense and dangerous environment which required diplomacy, negotiation and clear communication to get my job done. The biggest reward I walked away with was respect for the fishermen and the dangerous job they do at sea.”

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Living and working in Thailand

After spending a few years miles out at sea for months at a time, Danielle was ready for a new challenge. She was fascinated with commercial fishing and the process of developing seafood products, so she took a job at Long John Silver’s, one of the biggest commercial clients of the vessels she had been working on. 

For the next eight years, Danielle lived and worked in Thailand creating the supplier network in the Far East and Southeast Asia for Long John Silver’s. “I loved living in Bangkok, and the food was amazing,” she says.

Working as an expatriate in Asia was transformational as well. She was often the only American on a cross-cultural team tackling complex business challenges – such as sourcing shrimp in Vietnam – so she drew on the communications skills she gleaned out on the fishing vessels. “Given the cultural nuances and language barrier, it was important to be humble and listen well – the ultimate training for cross-functional teamwork,” Danielle adds.

Little did Danielle know, that training would soon come in handy.

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Landing her dream job at McDonald's

Danielle had been admiring McDonald’s from a distance. “I was so impressed by the quality and consistency in McDonald’s restaurants I visited throughout Asia Pacific,” Danielle remembers. “I visited every one I came across and the food was always delicious. I knew that was special.”

She soon landed her dream job at McDonald’s, initially working on the Global Menu Management Team where she worked in the Centers of Excellence in South America, Asia Pacific and Europe, testing new menu items and helping markets develop their menus. It was there she realized how committed McDonald’s was to the customer and meeting their needs around the world.

She loved the complex puzzle of listening to a customer’s desires and translating that feedback into the creation of a delicious menu item.

Eventually, Danielle was presented with the opportunity to work on the US Menu Management Team, where her first major project was to make McDonald's coffee outstanding.

Perfecting the simple cup of coffee

McDonald's coffee is an integral part of many of its restaurant guests’ days. But the company didn’t always have the sterling reputation it does today when it comes to its coffee. That’s where Danielle came in, and she dove head first into coffee.

“First we had to understand the sensory universe of coffee,” she explains. “We formed a large cross-functional team with the goal of revamping the coffee program. This team included our coffee suppliers, industry subject matter experts, owner/operators, Operations, Supply Chain Management, Insights, Marketing and beyond. We conducted a ton of research in order to develop a product which would attract new users, without alienating our current loyal customers.”

From the research they conducted, they were able to pinpoint the exact aroma, body and flavor that McDonald's customers were looking for in their everyday cup of coffee. Then it was Danielle’s task to identify the coffees they needed to achieve that taste.

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Travelling the world to find the blend

To pull this off, Danielle did what she was quite familiar with by then: travelling abroad, learning about local culture and translating that into incredible menu items. She traveled with  McDonald’s coffee suppliers to various coffee origins, such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Indonesia, where she met the farmers who were growing coffee and harvesting the beans.

“I love coffee. The aroma, the flavor, everything about it. And I was so fortunate to learn about coffee straight from the source,” Danielle says. Much like her time on the fishing vessels off the coast of Alaska, Danielle found herself in awe of what nature provides.

“We cupped so much coffee. I mean so much,” Danielle laughed. Ultimately, a balanced blend of coffees was selected to become McDonald’s Premium Roast Coffee – a blend that provided the perfect taste our customers were looking for. This is Danielle’s specialty – listening to what customers want and drawing on background knowledge and experiences to translate those desires into a delicious menu item.

Now, the challenge was to figure out how to make sure the coffee tasted that way every time, in every one of McDonald's restaurants around the world.

“When brewed according to our exacting procedures, is consistently flavorful and delicious,” Danielle explains. Oftentimes “consistent” can be misinterpreted as mediocre. Not at McDonald’s.

“We have a signature coffee flavor profile, throw weight, brewing temperature, brew time, hold time, and we specifically selected the cream that blends perfectly with our McCafé Coffee,” Danielle said. All of that combined brings you a delicious cup of coffee – every single time. It’s that consistency that sets us apart from other competitors. 

Never stop learning

Thanks in a large part to Danielle’s work, McDonald's regained credibility in coffee. But Danielle wasn’t ready to stop there. Danielle recently studied for and achieved Q Arabica Grader status. It’s like being a sommelier in the wine world, or a CFA in finance. In the coffee world, it’s as qualified as you can get.

“I was already a fish geek, and now I’m a coffee geek,” she laughs.

It’s safe to say after years innovating in coffee, Danielle has her 10,000 hours. She’s too modest to say herself, but McDonald's instead has put the words in her mouth - Danielle a coffee expert. 

Join passionate women like Danielle at McDonald's

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If you want to join women like Danielle, search and apply for a job at McDonald's.


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