Two men attempted to carry out an armed robbery on a McDonald’s in France – only to be thwarted by a table full of soldiers from an elite military unit having their lunch at the restaurant.

The thieves burst into the restaurant in the eastern commune of Ecole-Valentin on Sunday night – one firing a warning gunshot while the other began raiding the tills, as customers and employees fled the scene.

However, the two men were completely unaware of the presence of a dozen elite special operations soldiers – all trained in dealing with hostage situations.

Antony, 20, who works in the kitchen, said he did not initially grasp what was happening.

“At first I did not realise there was a gunshot,” he told France Bleu.

The staff took cover in the kitchen while the robbery took place, he said. Once the men were done they hastily made their exit through the kitchen, while one of the men brandished a gun and warned the staff not to move.

It was at this point – once everyone was out of danger – that the soldiers made their move, pursuing the robbers into the car park.

They shouted for the men to stop, but they just carried on. One fell on some stairs and was quickly apprehended, while the other was halted by a shot to the abdomen.

Police arrived on the scene shortly afterwards and arrested the two criminals.