McDonald’s Manager Earns Top Award

February 13, 2008

SOUTH ELGIN — Francisco Serna was far from “lovin’ it” on Dec. 26, 1995, when he showed up at the McDonald’s restaurant on Larkin Avenue in Elgin. Unable to speak more than a few words of English, the Mexican native was nearly destitute. He had been seeking employment for two months. But his inability to speak English, he recalled, was holding him back.

McDonald’s management cut him a break and put him to work almost immediately. “I was so desperate to find a job,” Serna recalled. “I was very happy when McDonald’s opened the doors for me.” Starting in the kitchen, Serna worked his way up and decided to invest in a two-month course to learn English. “I figured if I didn’t learn the language, I wouldn’t survive,” Serna remembered. The first phrase he learned was directed at his manager: “Can I speak to you? I want more money.” As his speech improved, Serna was trained to operate the cash register and began handling various shifts at the restaurant. “It took me a year — maybe a year and a half — to become manager,” Serna said. He would eventually take over management duties at McDonald’s South Elgin restaurant, located at Spring Street and McLean Boulevard. He never dreamed he would rise to the top 1 percent of the 13,000 McDonald’s restaurant managers across the U.S.

In late January, Serna, 30, learned from the McDonald’s corporate office in Oak Brook that he had won the prestigious Ray Kroc award for “superior performance and achievement.””I almost cried. I was real excited when I heard the news,” Serna said. “I was looking (to win) this award since 1996,” he added. Serna, joined by his wife and three children, will be honored at a Chicago banquet in March.

His achievements also are a feather in the cap of Bearco Management Co., which operates the South Elgin McDonald’s where Serna is manager and eight other McDonald’s franchises in the area — one inside Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee, one in Streamwood, five in Elgin and the newest McDonald’s in South Elgin, on Redington Road. In fact, Bearco spokesperson David Bear noted that three other Elgin restaurant managers at Bearco-owned restaurants were recognized by McDonald’s Corp. for “outstanding operational performance.”

The award recipients, all in the top 10 nationwide, include Bill Dodson, of the McDonald’s restaurant near Randall Road and U.S. 20; Jim Minobe, manager of the McDonald’s restaurant on Larkin Avenue; and Cornelia Simion, who operates the McDonald’s restaurant on St. Charles Street. Bear said the three restaurants were graded on quality, service and cleanliness — “the three pillars” that Ray Kroc, founder of the chain, established in 1955. “What we had to do was provide the corporate office examples of operational excellence and how we achieved higher than the norm,” Bear said. He noted that all McDonald’s restaurants in the franchise are “extremely clean and appealing.” Bear praised Serna for earning the Ray Kroc award, which is presented to restaurants that pass a much more exhaustive inspection. “It’s the most highly coveted award in the system today for managers.”