Fast-food chain McDonald's is to create 700 jobs in Ireland over the next three years.

Up to 12 new restaurants will open, in an investment worth over €20m.

McDonald's has been operating in Ireland for 35 years and already employs over 4,000 people here.

Some of the new restaurants will be in Dublin, Kilkenny, Ballina and Kildare village.

McDonald's said it is also actively looking at other locations.

Recruitment for the new positions will begin in January.

A new economic analysis of the contribution of McDonald's to the Irish economy shows the company spent over €280m last year.

It is also worth more than €390m in exports.

McDonald's is one of the biggest exporters of Irish beef, worth €110m last year, and also accounted for €66m worth of exports of Irish cheese in 2011.

McDonald's Ireland Managing Director Adrian Crean said a recent deal with Dawn Meats is expected to provide further impetus to beef exports in the future.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Crean said the company is passionate about providing a sense of future to employees by partnering with colleges to provide further education and qualifications for staff.

He said staff are hired at a starting hourly rate of around €9 an hour and restaurant managers earn around €40,000.

Minister of State John Perry opened a new McDonald's outlet at Airside in Co Dublin this morning, where 82 jobs were created.