by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
Have you ever worked at McDonald’s or a “fast food” restaurant?
I always told my hospitality students at Lincoln Land Community College that the skills they learn would serve them well no matter what they did in the future. Over 20 million Americans have earned their first paycheck at McDonald’s, including probably one of the richest Americans, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (grill man).
In today’s multi-tasking world, the ability to listen to one order while filling the prior order and delivering/cashiering the order prior to that one, takes a special person. You soon learn that customers (now often called guests) can be difficult and even unreasonable. I always shared with my employees in the restaurants and hotels that I managed that “the customer may not always be right, but they are still the customer and the reason we were there. Do a good job and you will be rewarded — with a harder job” (which is true of careers everywhere).
This month’s article will be about McDonald’s, Springfield McDonald’s history, and the changes that are coming.
Springfield’s Lithuanian historian, Sandy Baksys, details the beginnings of McDonald’s restaurants in Springfield. Aptly named “Mack,” Springfield’s first McDonald’s franchisee John Mack (Makarauskas) Sr., was born in Lithuania in 1912. He was a coal miner before operating Mack’s Food Store at 1501 Keys Ave. In 1957, John, Sr. and his wife Mary (Gidus) Mack, had the foresight to make the leap from their corner grocery to the brave, new world of fast food. Sandy writes that after a personal phone call from Ray Kroc and having been turned down by many banks, a $100,000 loan for the Mack’s from Illinois National Bank finally came through. John and Mary opened their first restaurant on S. Sixth St. at the perfect location: just outside the gates of construction machinery factory Allis Chalmers, where two shifts a day of hungry workers could appreciate a 15-cent burger with 10-cent fries. At the peak of their empire, the Mack’s were exclusive franchisees of eight McDonald’s all over Springfield. John Sr. died in 1974, and the Mack family got out of the burger business in 1989. The Mack family, in particular Mary Mack, wife of John Mack Sr., was responsible for creation of Springfield’s Ronald McDonald House, following the death of her nephew, Robert Mack, of brain cancer at age 18.
I recently met with Rick McGraw (and family), one of the Springfield area franchisees, about what is new at McDonald’s and what we can expect in the near future. First, a little about Rick. Rick started his McDonald’s career as a “crew kid” in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1968. He met wife Dona (the day I visited she was busy approving bills) in Wisconsin. He worked his way up and McDonald’s helped finance them to open up his first franchise in Litchfield, Ill. in 1978. Over the next 10 years, Rick and Dona opened up stores in Central Illinois and in 1989, purchased the Springfield franchise from the Mack family. They have successfully expanded and now are hoteliers and franchisees of Nancy’s Pizza restaurants. Daughter Christa McGraw heads up the Nancy’s part of the company (along with responsibilities with the hotels) with locations in Springfield and Litchfield. Their other daughter Jenna is responsible for their hotel operations. Loyalty and family are primary concepts to Rick and Dona. A number of their employees/managers have been with them for many years. Rick beams when he says, “Nothing is better than working with my kids,” and considers himself very lucky.
Son Mike McGraw now heads up the McDonald’s part of their company. Mike grew up working as a crew member, eventually managed his own store and now is an owner/operator. Mike provided me information on the big changes coming to your local McDonald’s.
The changes are reflective of a new restaurant model that has been successfully rolled out in more than 2,600 international McDonald’s restaurants and puts choice and control in the hands of guests by evolving how they order, what they order, how they pay and how they are served.
For those looking to order at their own pace, McDonald’s digital self-order kiosks will make ordering and paying for a meal easy. Kiosks empower guests to browse the menu, find new options and tailor their meal just the way they want. Among McDonald’s new menu options are Signature Crafted recipes, where customers can order 100 percent beef or juicy grilled or crispy chicken, picking an artisan roll or sesame seed bun, and choosing from one of three new signature crafted recipes – Signature Sriracha, Pico Guacamole or Sweet BBQ Bacon. All Signature Crafted recipes include quality ingredients like guacamole made with avocados, crispy Applewood smoked bacon and grilled onions.
Guests’ orders will be delivered to tables by McDonald’s crew members. Serving families has always been central to McDonald’s and this one change should make a big difference for families with young kids. This would have been very helpful when Carol and I were traveling with our children and at the last minute realized we had forgotten to bring enough napkins or ketchup to the table.
Additionally, this past spring, McDonald’s announced that by mid-2018, it will serve fresh beef, prepared when ordered, in all Quarter Pounder burgers across the majority of its restaurants. Other recent changes are:
• In 2015, the company announced a number of changes as to how it serves and sources its food by offering All-Day Breakfast, committing to only sourcing cage-free eggs by 2025, and committing to only serve chicken not treated with antibiotics.
• Last year, the company removed artificial preservatives from several menu items, including Chicken McNuggets and eliminated high fructose corn syrup from the buns used on Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken sandwiches.
There is a new look coming to McDonald’s stores. Their store located at Toronto and Interstate 55 was recently remodeled with the new décor package. I would call it a more “adult” design. The seating is no longer all bolted to the floor; there are new lighting and high top tables.
Locally, Mike informed me kiosks will come over the next couple of years and their Sixth St. location is scheduled to be their first. Table service has been rolled out at their Sixth St. restaurant and the Monroe St. restaurant, and they will roll out more next year. The introduction of fresh meat is also planned for next year.
My thanks to Rick, Dona and their family for all they have contributed to our community over the years. For Rick, next year will be his 50th year of being associated with McDonald’s.
For this month’s recipe I found the web site TopSecretRecipes.com and chose one of my annual favorites.
Two cups vanilla ice cream
One cup milk
¼ tsp mint extract-not peppermint
8 drops green food coloring
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed. Pour into two 12 oz. cups and add whipped cream and a cherry. Enjoy, even if it is not St. Patrick’s Day!
“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” Ray Kroc, McDonald’s Founder