On Dec. 5, the Cornell Organization for Labor Action and the Tompkins County Workers’ Center held a rally at my restaurant, the McDonald’s franchise located on North Triphammer Road. Based on press coverage, commentary and several videos, it seems that there is a misconception that this restaurant is owned by the McDonald’s corporation. That is not the case. In fact, this restaurant, as well as the McDonald’s on Elmira Road in Ithaca, is locally owned by me: a Cornell University alumna ’04, a resident of Tompkins County and a female entrepreneur. The Ithaca McDonald’s establishments are one of only a limited number of female-owned small businesses of this type in Tompkins County.
I first came to Ithaca as an undergraduate at Cornell University in 2000. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in economics, I went to work for the federal government in New York City. Evolving career ambitions led to a somewhat unexpected opportunity to relocate back to Ithaca and purchase the town’s two McDonald’s restaurants. It was the chance of a lifetime. I was both thrilled and excited to return to Ithaca. In March 2012, I purchased the restaurants and moved my family back to town, where I now operate the restaurants and raise my two young children.
As a small business owner, I am acutely aware that my restaurants can only be as good as my employees. We are thankful for their dedication and take great pride in the training and advancement opportunities that we provide to every employee. When hiring new employees, I share the notion that McDonald’s can be whatever an employee wants it to be — a step along the way or a real career.
To that end, I have implemented an entire slate of employee benefits that are not customarily offered to fast food workers, including paid vacation time; a dollar-for-dollar, company-matched retirement plan; complimentary employee meals; and college-accredited career training, to name a few. We also increased the average wage rate by more than 10 percent, and 100 percent of our employees, including minors, earn above the minimum wage.
All of our current managers — nearly 20 in total — started as kitchen and service crew and have worked their way up, winning McDonald’s leadership awards along the way. Both of our general managers began their careers as crew members, and one recently completed her general manager Capstone coursework at Hamburger University — yes, that really does exist! This college accredited program is known in the industry as the gold standard for quick-serve restaurant operations. The opportunity our local business provides is real. We are proud of the accomplishments of our employees, and we will always continue to put their growth and development first!
I am also proud of the community involvement and support that we provide as a local small business. Our organization and employees quietly and humbly make many contributions to a host of organizations throughout the community. We are proud to have been recognized as a leading employer for workers with disabilities. We continue to look for new ways to expand our reach and involvement. Giving back and being a strong community partner are core values that we maintain and hold dear.