What comes to mind when you hear that word? Let’s just put it out there right now up front, for many it conjures up images of pink slime, cholesterol, and microwaves, among many other things.
For me, the word McDonald’s brings back childhood memories. I grew up in Southern California in the 1980’s, and I will always have fond memories of going to a particular McDonald’s by my house with my neighborhood friends after soccer practice, swimming lessons or even after Sunday church services for a Happy Meal with a cheeseburger, french fries and Coke. I distinctly remember the old outdoor playground, with equipment made of metal that got very hot in the California sun – you would definitely not see those today in the world of safe plastic playground equipment. For me, McDonald’s was just a fun place to go for a quick and cheap meal with my parents and my friends.
Throughout my 20’s, McDonald’s became my go-to place after an evening of…..oh let’s just call it having adult fun. I spent much of 20’s and into my 30’s living in the Washington, DC area and I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I hopped into cabs and had the driver pull into a McDonald’s drive thru to help soak up some of this adult fun in our stomachs. If a 2 a.m. McDonald’s stop didn’t happen for some reason, then I guarantee you, I was at McDonald’s the next morning, wearing sunglasses and ordering a Quarter Pounder with Cheese – that burger is a magical hangover-cure. I’m just sayin.
I have been excited to work with McDonald’s this past year and share their story of how they are evolving with changing consumer tastes. I had the unique opportunity to check out the new McDonald’s experience at their Rainier Beach location in Seattle and meet with restaurant supervisor Ngoc and franchise owner David Santillanes.
David hails from New Mexico and came to the Pacific Northwest in 2002 and now owns nine different McDonald’s restaurants throughout Seattle and Bellevue. I asked him why he chose to invest in McDonald’s and his answer was very simple, it’s the greatest brand there is.
It only takes a quick Google search to see how many influential people started their careers working at McDonald’s. Doctors, scientists, lawyers, actors – all got their start at the Golden Arches. Think about what you learn about while working at McDonald’s – regiment, time management, discipline, customer service – all the basic professional skills needed for any type of job. As both David and Ngoc talked about, McDonald’s also offers great vertical momentum. Those employees who learn the system, work hard and pay attention, can work their way up the chain quickly. Ngoc herself started as a new employee 15 years ago and is now a supervisor.
McDonald’s also wants to empower their employees by making education accessible through tuition assistance. Did you know you only have to work at McDonald’s for three months before they offer you tuition assistance? They want their employees to better themselves outside of work and obtain that GED or college degree.
I talked to David and Ngoc about the Rainier Beach location’s community involvement. They have partnered extensively with local elementary schools for McTakeovers and McTeacher nights. They have also partnered with the Pacific Science Center for the past five years and sponsored Science on Wheels. They have worked with the Seattle Police Department through the Good Citizen’s Program, by recognizing positive behavior in the community and offering free meal cards. McDonald’s also works extensively with the Boys & Girls Club through a Build-A-Bike event, partnering with Golden State Foods, Safeway, local police and fire to deliver 75 bikes to kids in need, and have them all fitted with helmets, reflective gear and bike locks.
As part of a growing awareness of our changing environment, McDonald’s implemented a used coffee grounds composting program called “Good Neighbor, Good Grounds.” Through the program, participating restaurants re-bag coffee grounds and give them to community members to use in their home gardens or donate them to community gardens. You can read more about that program here.
Quality food is at the core of the McDonald’s philosophy. Here are some interesting facts I learned from David and Ngoc and observed on my tour of the Rainier Beach location!
- In May 2018, McDonald’s will be rolling our fresh beef for the Quarter Pounder hamburgers (the patty will be fresh off the grill and straight to the bun)
- All of their grills are computer driven for consistent cooking
- Frozen patties are held no more than 15 minutes
- McDonald’s uses soy oil, which is sustainable and trans-fat free
- McDonald’s uses all white meat for their chicken, which is made with no preservatives or additives
- McDonald’s changed the global supply chain when they started requesting antibiotic free chicken and were enablers for the rest of the system
- When McDonald’s launched the chicken tenders in October 2017, they were so popular, it was the first time in history franchises ran out of a product!
- A customer ordered just egg whites and I watched one of the cooks make the order from scratch – did you know you could order just egg whites?
And now, the new McDonald’s – Experience of the Future. The Rainier Beach location is one of the first restaurants to have the new look. The decor itself was clean and had a fresh look with an upbeat vibe. I saw a few customers set up shop like you would see at a local Starbucks, with a coffee and laptop. The new kiosk ordering system was very easy, and you can custom order anything you want and have your food delivered to your table. As David said, this new way of ordering empowers the crew to anticipate what guests need and creates a new table side service model.
McDonald’s also truly employs the local masses, and not just in the restaurant itself. Did you know that the hot cakes and McGriddles are made in Kent, WA? From Kent, they are shipped across the state and to Asia! Caldwell, Idaho is home to where the french fries and hashbrowns are from. Tree Top Apple Juice is made in the Tricities area. Just think about how many farmers in the country do business with McDonald’s franchises. Say what you want about McDonald’s, but because of their existence, they are driving and influencing the economy and keeping many people employed!
If you haven’t been to McDonald’s in awhile, go check out one of the new Experience of the Future locations, like in Rainier Beach. Grab a coffee from the McCafe, order from the kiosk and enjoy your time at the Golden Arches. Rethink everything you know!