McDonald’s has grown from its first location in California in 1954 to a global food service brand that promises a family-friendly dining experience. While the brand and its familiar golden arches have global reach, its stores are mainly owned and operated by local small business owners invested in the communities where their restaurants are located.
Local franchise owner Mike Gremaud started in the back of the kitchen and is now running the front of the house of a multimillion-dollar company. He started at 17 as a crew person, moving up into a series of management positions, eventually becoming an operator. His son, Brian Gremaud, mirrored his father’s progress.
Mike did not originally plan a career in the restaurant business, but found he had a knack for it.
“I must have been good at it, because I started going through the ranks and the higher I went, the more I liked it. I was going to school for engineering at the time, and switched over to business administration and figured out that maybe I’ll see where this goes,”
One thing led to another and in 1991, Mike purchased his first restaurant in Marshall, Missouri and then kept adding on from there.
One of the most rewarding aspects of owning restaurants for Mike is seeing the people who work with him evolve in their careers. “It’s rewarding to watch them grow,” Mike said.
Mike has had the pleasure of watching his own son grow within the organization, from a young teen working in the back of the restaurant to becoming an owner.
“In 7th grade, I wanted to make some money, so my dad put me to work washing dishes for $4.25 an hour. Two years later, I was working the counter,” Brian said.
A graduate of University of Central Missouri, Brian began his management journey as a supervisor for his father’s Knob Noster location, eventually purchasing his first location in Higginsville in March 2016.
Now as an operator, Brian works alongside his father and together they collectively own nine restaurants across Western Missouri.
Working with family can certainly be rewarding, but it is not without its challenges.
“We’re different, but we want the same things. I’ll give my dad credit, as I bought stores, he may stop by and point out something he notices, but he is great about saying, ‘It’s your restaurant,’ and trusts me to run it as I see fit. Likewise, when I come to one of his locations, if he wants something done a certain way, I don’t question him,” Brian said.
“Although we probably think the same way in how to keep the restaurants, good quality customer service and cleanliness, the way we do things may not be the same way because we’re two separate individuals. I don’t want him to just be a ‘yes’ man to me. I want him to think out the box and do what he thinks is best. Plus, the younger generation has much to contribute, especially it terms of how we have evolved with technology,” Mike said.
“The computer era has basically taken over all aspects of this business, from ordering to scheduling. When I came through the system, everything was pretty much done manually. We have evolved with the times, although I still prefer to do things the ‘old way’ sometimes.”
The ability to evolve with the times has been even more critical in recent months with the complications businesses have faced due to COVID-19.
“The patterns are different. Even just how you operate the business is different. There are days you feel you have a grasp on sales patterns, and the next day you have a down day and it is difficult to understand why, but we adjust. I guess it speaks to the adaptability of the business. Things break and things change, and you have be ready,” Brian said.
While the drive-thru remains open at the Grain Valley location, a date has not yet been set for the opening of the dining area. The restaurant is slowly preparing the dining area for an eventual reopening, taking all the necessary precautions required to ensure a safe environment for staff and customers.
“We’re not pushing it, but we’d like to get back to normal as soon as possible and allow people to come back in and enjoy a meal as a family inside the restaurant, Mike said.
While much focus has been placed in recent weeks on the impact COVID-19 has had on small ‘mom and pop’ stores, the impact on business is just as keenly felt by franchise owners such as the Gremauds.
“The majority of us are franchise owned. There are some franchise owners who are hurting pretty bad right now, depending on where their restaurants are located,” Mike said.
“We have a number of highway locations that are down due to the reduction in traffic. Overall, I believe we will survive it as a system, but we are a bunch of independent small business owners who have bought into these communities. We employ people in the community, we pay local taxes.”
The Gremauds collectively own locations in Marshall, Higginsville, Oak Grove, Concordia, Richmond, Odessa, Knob Noster and Grain Valley.
One of the greatest challenges for the Gremauds is the same for most businesses, hiring and retaining the right people.
“That’s the key to a successful business—having the right people. It is a constant challenge in our world, as it is in every other business. We try to get the best possible people in our restaurants. I really get a lot of personal satisfaction watching somebody grow, as they move up the ladder and take on more and more responsibility. Whether they take on McDonald’s as a career or not is irrelevant, but it’s nice to see them grow and excel,” Mike said.
The Gremauds are committed to the success of their crew. Their employees were awarded nearly $60,000 in college tuition assistance last year through McDonald's Archways to Opportunity program.
The Grain Valley location, as well as the Gremaud’s additional locations, will hold a hiring event next Tuesday, June 16th.