When Ray Kroc franchised the first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, on April 15, 1955, he had no way of knowing that that day would mark the birth of one of the most iconic franchise brands in the world. But what he did know was that if McDonald’s was going to be successful, he couldn’t do it alone. “In business for yourself, but not by yourself,” he liked to say.
Thus, he embarked on a unique path at that time – to persuade franchisees and suppliers to join him in working for themselves, together with McDonald’s.
It obviously worked. In 1967, the first McDonald’s restaurant outside the U.S. opened its doors in Richmond, British Columbia. Today, there are almost 37,000 McDonald’s restaurants around the world — more than 1,400 of them in Canada, about 85 per cent of which are locally owned and operated by independent entrepreneurs.
Below, the stories of four of those Canadian franchisees, and how each of them became one of McDonald’s rising stars.
Usman Jutt: The Alberta Innovator
It was only five years ago that Usman Jutt became the owner-operator of the Coronation restaurant in Edmonton, Alberta, but in that time, he’s gone on to purchase an astounding 14 McDonald’s restaurants in Calgary, Airdrie, and Strathmore, Alberta.
On paper, that may look like unsustainable growth. The number one priority of taking care of his guests with outstanding guest experience, and the fact that the McDonald’s system allows for rapid growth under the right circumstances, has meant that his restaurants are thriving, he says.“It’s definitely all about building infrastructure and having the people that enable you to grow on your team,” says Jutt, who was a retailer with Husky Energy before McDonald’s. “So in my first year, I spent a lot of time developing people and building infrastructure. When I worked with my team on people development, and when I was doing strategic recruitment, I was looking for individuals that had bandwidth – that if I had the opportunity to grow quickly, they would be able to grow with me.”
That growth really took off in the first half of 2017, when he purchased three restaurants in Airdrie and 10 in Calgary.
While the team and the infrastructure he built around him have been huge, the initial franchisee training he received really set him up for success, he says. Typically, it takes nine months to two years to complete; it took Jutt 14 months.
“The training gives the ability for you to really understand the business. I viewed it as: How do I build my network? How do I use this year to learn, strategize, and get the most out of my first year in business? That’s really where my growth started.”
Amit and Bharti Kapoor: The Power Couple
For some couples, the idea of working with one’s spouse is a dream come true, and Amit and Bharti Kapoor, the owner-operators of two McDonald’s locations in Winnipeg, Manitoba, found McDonald’s to be an ideal situation for both of them.
“One big advantage of working together is that our goals are aligned,” says Amit. “And working with your spouse, you understand each other’s strengths, and you divide your responsibilities based on your skills.” In their case, Amit takes care of operations, while Bharti handles human resources.
Another perk of working with your spouse, says Amit, is that when you have success, you can celebrate your success together.
Granted, the Kapoors were able to find their groove as franchisees of three Second Cup locations in Toronto before making the jump to McDonald’s. But even so, there are still challenges they have to overcome. “The thing is, you can never escape your work, and when you’re working together, your expectations are very high in terms of each other’s performances,” says Amit.
“You just have to remember to give each other time and space,” says Amit. “It’s easier said than done to leave your work at the door, but you have to keep in mind that you are doing all of this for family, you are doing all of this for success. So enjoy your family, leave work behind.”
David Wood: The People’s Champion
Take a survey of McDonald’s franchisees, and chances are you’ll find quite a few who are former McDonald’s employees. David Wood, the owner-operator of the Prince Rupert, British Columbia McDonald’s since August 2017, is one of them. His first job at 15 was as a crew member in White Rock, B.C., where he eventually worked his way up to Assistant Manager.
Though he had been gone for about 10 years before returning to McDonald’s, he always wondered if leaving the company was the right choice. “I’ve always been very passionate about the brand, and I know McDonald’s is always investing and trying to be innovative with new things and being industry leaders,” he says. “So when I looked at different franchises, McDonald’s was always going to be my first choice.”
“I have a vision of where I want to take the business, and it really involves taking care of my people and a hands-on commitment to the business,” he adds.
Although there have been a few challenges, those have paled in comparison to the rewards and success Wood has achieved. “Overall, the community of Prince Rupert and my restaurant team have been nothing short of fantastic. How they’ve accepted my wife and I into our new roles and taken on new roles has been absolutely incredible.”
As for advice he’d give to McDonald’s employees thinking about becoming franchisees someday, it’s all about putting people first, working hard, and growing your network. “You never know who you’re going to need to lean on, so continue to grow those connections, be passionate about people, and lean on the support that McDonald’s provides their franchisees.”
Neeru Schippel: The Motivator
Anyone who’s worked for Neeru Schippel at one of her five South Edmonton, Alberta McDonald’s restaurants probably won’t be surprised to hear that this is her favourite Ray Kroc quote: “I like to get people fired up, fill them up with zeal for McDonald’s, and watch the results in their work.”
So how does she do that with 200-ish employees? Many ways, it turns out, but most of them come down to creating a fun working environment where anyone is welcome, no matter their age, sex or cultural background. For example, Schippel takes the time every year to organize special employee events for Diwali, Christmas, Eid, Chinese New Year, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and more.
Celebrating these events isn’t just about having fun, though, she adds. “We implement confidence. Confidence in people knowing that we respect their cultures. Confidence so they share their cultures with us. Confidence in that everyone is treated the same.”
She also instills that confidence by walking the talk, and working her business with full-time best efforts and strong commitment to the brand. “I strongly believe that you cannot ask anyone to do something for you unless you are willing to do it first,” she says.
What a difference from her previous life as a lawyer, when she dealt mostly with adults and sat behind a desk for 60 hours per week.
Her McDonald’s journey has been simply incredible, and a huge blessing, she says, one she definitely doesn’t regret making. “I am able to enjoy my family, work extremely hard with my crew and managers, have so much fun motivating them, and enjoy life to the fullest.”
Ray Kroc would be proud.
By Jordan Whitehouse