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McMakeover beckons as fast food giant seeks to overhaul dated image

LONDON - McDonald's is aiming to address the dated image of its outlets in the face of flagging UK sales, by spending £140m on a refurbishment campaign under the guidance of Steve Easterbrook, its incoming UK chief executive.

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The move is part of McDonald's broader strategy to rebrand itself as a more health-conscious and consumer-friendly company, in the wake of growing criticism from consumer groups about its food nutrition levels, ethical practices in the developing world and marketing "unhealthy" food to children.

In all, McDonald's aims to redesign more than 200 of its outlets over the next three years. The eight separate restaurant designs, which are aimed at different consumer groups, will first appear in Southampton, Bolton, Birmingham, Blackpool and Cannock by the end of the year.

The restaurant rebranding will say goodbye to the familiar fluorescent yellow plastic seating, plastic plants and garish lighting, and replace it with more contemporary furniture and mood lighting.

Easterbrook, who will take over from Peter Beresford as McDonald's UK chief executive, will spearhead the McDonald's restaurant redesign, which is one of the company's most radical overhaul in recent years.

It comes only a week after the fast food giant launched its "McProspects" campaign with the aid of TBWA\London, to shake off its image as a low-paying company offering limited career prospects.

Easterbrook said: "People are telling us that our restaurants stand out as dated in town centres -- they are crying out for more variety. This investment will mark a step-change of a kind that has not been seen before."

The strategy aims to address McDonald's flagging UK sales, which resulted in the company announcing the closure of 25 of its least-performing outlets in February.

Increasing competition from the likes of Pret a Manger and other high street brands has made McDonald's refocus its branding strategies. Combined with a more ethically savvy public, the company has been keen to move away from the traditional burger and fries format by introducing a range of salads and sandwiches.

The UK's first McDonald's opened in Woolwich in 1974.

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