The Montreal Gazette, December 4, 2002

Fun-loving McDonald's franchisees love to laugh and see you smile

By Warren Perley

McDonald's franchisees (left to right): George Bolanis, Pierre Brunet, John G. Adoluca, Ray Ferron, Randy Pryde and Frédéric Cassir.

The boys in Club 30 have gathered together at Fred Cassir’s McDonald’s restaurant on St. Charles Road for a good old-fashioned gabfest.

Club 30 stands for the number of years that each of the six franchisees has been associated with McDonald’s. Four of them — Fred, Pierre Brunet, George Bolanis and John Adoluca — hit the 30-year mark in 2002. Two of them — Randy Pryde and Ray Ferron — will claim that distinction in 2003. Randy and Ray have been invited to join the festivities this day in anticipation of their 30th anniversaries with the company.

What strikes a visitor is the unabashed bonhomie that exits among the six, who have known each other since starting their careers with McDonald’s in the early 70s. They jam three tables together in a corner of the restaurant and sip their coffees, hot and black, while the vivid memories cascade in verbal torrents.

These are highly successful businessmen, half of whom — Fred, Randy and Pierre — started as McDonald’s crew members and worked themselves into ownership positions. George, Ray and John were manager trainees who went on to become franchise owners.

They’re reliving their glory years on the crews or in the corporation — the days when they competed in annual all-star competitions to recognize the best employees in various categories.

“I was an all-star in fries and shakes,” Pierre recalls. Fred was an all-star “lobbyman”, the fellow in charge of customer relations. The 6 foot, 5 inch Randy recalls that his specialty was buns — he could scoop up six at a time with his massive paws making him an “all-star bunman” in 1975.

In 1976, George was manager at the franchise on St. John’s Road and the big-boned Randy, who had formerly worked as a student on construction projects, was his assistant. George can’t resist razzing him, recalling that his training regimen for Randy at that time required the young man to babysit George’s 1-year-old son.

The gusto with which these six franchisees do business is the living embodiment of McDonald’s credo worldwide, a grassroots entrepreneurial spirit that relies on a close relationship among franchisees, staff, suppliers and the local communities they serve.

When one analyses the success of the world’s largest quick-service restaurant chain, it starts at the roots— the thousands of franchisees worldwide like Fred, Pierre, George, John, Randy and Ray who are able to implement McDonald’s rigorous standards for quality, service, cleanliness and value.

"We take the hamburger business more seriously than anyone else," Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's Corp. once said of his company’s success. A Harvard Business School professor described him as "the service sector's equivalent of Henry Ford."

Franchisees are key to network

Kroc created an enterprise comprised of thousands of small businesses, run by independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 85 percent of McDonald's restaurants worldwide.

Marie Nicole Vallee, principal of John F. Kennedy public school, and Shane Conway (right), a special educator/technician, present McDonald’s franchisee George Bolanis with a thank-you plaque from students in recognition of a donation last April which helped to build a “snoezelen room” for handicapped students.

In Canada, more than 70 percent of the McDonald’s outlets belong to franchisees, most of whom are either former crew members who worked previously for other franchisees or were employees of the corporation, such as George, who in 1982 became the first Quebec management trainee to become a franchise owner.

Pierre and Fred play major roles on the national level within McDonald’s. Pierre is president of the board that represents Montreal franchisees within McDonald’s and he is a member of the delegation that represents all Quebec franchisees at the national level. Fred is the first Quebec-based chairman of the Canadian Owner Operator National Advertising Directors, which represents all Canadian franchisees in the planning of marketing initiatives.

The fact that employees are given preference in obtaining franchise permits is part of McDonald’s philosophy of training employees in areas such as service, food quality, purchasing, cost control, as well as administration and then promoting from within. There are even scholarships and bursaries available to promising employees who want to continue their studies at the CEGEP or university level.

“At McDonald’s, you’re always learning,” says George. “It’s like going to university and studying for a degree in business administration. And the comraderie is special.”

Kroc was fond of saying that "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."

Kroc served as chairman of McDonald's from its founding in 1955 until 1977 and is revered by the Club 30 members. John remembers the time the founder visited Montreal during the 1976 Olympics to mark the beginning of McDonald’s role as a top sponsor of the Olympics and to inaugurate the opening of the 4000th McDonald’s in the world — the franchise on St. Catherine near Atwater.

A life-long baseball fan who had purchased the San Diego Padres in 1974, Kroc told John it was tougher for him to win a World Series than it was to build the world’s No. 1 fast-food chain.

“He (Kroc) told me how he felt he was overpaying pitchers who couldn’t get the job done,” John recalls with a smile. “He really wanted to build a winning baseball team. We also talked about McDonald’s. He had a lot of words of wisdom about quality, service, cleanliness and giving back to the community.”

Ray Kroc set the tone

Perhaps a visitor who witnessed the recent free-wheeling repartee among the Club 30 members should not have been surprised at the candor and warmth, given the iconoclastic behavior of Kroc, who still serves as a role model almost 19 years after his death

He was as colorful and outspoken an entrepreneur as one could imagine. Some of Kroc’s favorite sayings:

  • "You're only as good as the people you hire."
  • "Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get."
  • "As long as you're green, you're growing. As soon as you're ripe, you start to rot."
  • "None of us is as good as all of us."

He would have fit right in with the Club 30 bonhommie. He would also have appreciated their selfless devotion to local community causes. Throughout his life, until he died on January 14, 1984, Kroc was involved in charitable activities addressing diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and chemical dependency.

Generous donations to charities and local-based community groups has always been a major part of the McDonald’s corporate philosophy, a view endorsed and practiced daily by Club 30 members. For example:

For example:

  • John participates in the annual Missing Children’s Radiothon, which has raised over $1 million during the last 10 years. He is an enthusiastic supporter of McDonald’s McHappy Day, with a portion of the proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House and the balance to the charity of his choice, the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation for Heart Research. He is also involved in the Optimist Club, youth programs in St. Laurent and church fund-raisers.
  • Ray is active in the Montreal Oral School for the Deaf and the Montreal Association for the Blind, as well as the Kiwanis Club. He is a sponsor of the Concordia Stingers football team and of the Garbage Bowl, which is held as a fund-raiser every winter in Montreal West.
  • George donated $39,000 in April 2002 to help build in a Beaconsfield school what is known as a “snoezelen room” which imparts a sense of light, touch and feel to handicapped students. He gave $29,000 to help build a sailboat for handicapped children which is moored at the Pointe Claire Yacht Club. He is also a sponsor of the Lakeshore General Hospital duck race.
  • Fred is very involved with the Quebec Society for the Handicapped, raising between $60,000 and $70,000 in the last six years. He is a major sponsor of West Island soccer teams, as well as being involved in other sports and youth activities.
  • Randy raises funds for wheelchair-bound basketball players, collecting $18,000 two years ago to help them buy specialized wheelchairs which won’t tip. He supports soccer and hockey teams and is president of the Kiwanis Club in Laval. He is active in fund-raising for local charities.
  • Pierre is on the board of directors of Ronald McDonald House at St. Justine’s Hospital and helps out with its daily operation. He also works with the McKay Centre, the Montreal Oral School for the Deaf and the Montreal Association for the Blind. He is a sponsor of the milk program for students at Wagar High School and also works on helping to organize Christmas basket food drives.
Canada creates McHappy Day

As the McDonald’s web site says: “The principle of giving back runs deep at McDonald's — instilled in us nearly 50 years ago by our founder, Ray Kroc. It is a part of our culture.”

Jacqueline Malette (left), general manager of Montreal Ronald McDonald House, and franchisee Pierre Brunet (2nd from left) get a helping hand on McHappy and World Children Day last Nov. 20th from Canadian Olympic diver Alexandre Despatie and children’s entertainer Annie Brocoli.

In Kroc’s own words: “We have an obligation to give back to the communities that give us so much.”

The McDonald’s ethos is well established in Canada. The first outlet opened in June, 1967. There are now 1200 such restaurants, employing 77,000 Canadians and ordering supplies from 120 Canadian companies.

There are three major components to McDonald's charitable fundraising in Canada:

  • There are 12 Ronald McDonald Houses at Canadian hospitals, allowing family members to sleep nearby their children who are undergoing treatment for serious illnesses.
  • There is an institution called Ronald McDonald Charities of Canada (RMCC) which raises money to help children who are ill and or who are physically or mentally challenged. Franchisees, corporate officers from McDonald’s, as well as outside professionals, sit on the RMCC board to manage charitable projects which must first be endorsed by the franchisees in the region. Since 1982, the RMCC has raised $22 million to help 485,000 special-needs children residing in 1,110 communities across Canada.
  • McHappy Day, which started in Canada 25 years ago, is held every two years. Prior to this year’s event, it had raised more than $20 million for charity since it started in 1977. The Canadian tradition of McHappy Day has spread across the world and was implemented in over 25,000 McDonald’s in more than 100 countries last Wednesday (Nov. 20, 2002 ). During that one day, more than $4 million was raised in Canada, with $1.1 million of the amount coming from Quebec. McDonald’s donated $1 to the fund for each Big Mac bought that day and on all meals involving bagels and on all Happy Meals for children. One month before McHappy Day, customers started making donations by purchasing a paper hand for $1. The paper hand was then stuck on the windows and walls of the restaurants to show tangible proof of customers’ support for the fund-raiser.

All of these charitable donations and community-based programs have been made possible through the active support of everyday businesspeople like Fred, Pierre, George, John, Randy and Ray.

Like their role model Ray Kroc, who transformed his life at age 52 from a milkshake machine salesman into the founder of what would become the world's largest restaurant chain, these men dare to dream.

And, like thousands of other McDonald's franchisees across Canada, they've made their dreams come true and, in the process, are sharing the benefits with their local communities.

Meet franchisee
George Bolanis
  • Restaurant locations: Beaconsfield, Dorval, Kirkland
  • Marital status: Married, two sons
  • Favourite menu item: Big Mac and fries
  • Favourite expression: "Time to lean; time to clean"
  • McDonald's experience: 30 years
  • Hobbies: Skiing, tennis, swimming
  • Community activities: Missing Children's Fund; Meals on Wheels; Lakeshore General Hospital; sports associations
  • Special memories: First Quebec employee to become franchisee
Meet franchisee
Ray Ferron
  • Restaurant locations: St. Jacques Street
  • Marital status: Married, with one daughter
  • Favourite menu item: Filet-O-Fish
  • Favourite expression: "Yeah, right!"
  • McDonald's experience: 29 years
  • Hobbies: Skiing, biking, rollerblading
  • Community activities: Montreal Oral School for the Deaf;
  • Montreal Association forthe Blind; Concordia football
  • Special memories: McDonald's friendships and comraderie; fishing trips
Meet franchisee
John G. Adoluca
  • Restaurant locations: Three on Côte Vertu Road
  • Marital status: Married, two daughters
  • Favourite menu item: Double cheeseburger and fries
  • Favourite expression: "Time to lean; time to clean"
  • McDonald's experience: 30 years
  • Hobbies: Cooking, hockey
  • Community activities: Montreal Children's Hospital; Foundation for Heart Research;
  • Missing Children's Radiothon; Optimist Club; Place Vertu Board of Merchants
  • Special memories: Helping launch McDonald's in Germany
Meet franchisee
Frédéric Cassir
  • Restaurant locations: St. Charles, St. Johns, Sources
  • Marital status: Married, three children
  • Favourite menu item: Egg McMuffin
  • Favourite expression: "At the end of the day..."
  • McDonald's experience: 30 years
  • Hobbies: Golfing, fishing and sports
  • Community activities: Fundraising for soccer, swimming and basketball
  • Special memories: Going up the ranks in McDonalds
Meet franchisee
Randy Pryde
  • Restaurant locations: Labelle, Ste. Dorothée
  • Marital status:Married, two children
  • Favourite menu item: Big Mac and fries
  • Favourite expression: "People respect what you inspect"
  • McDonald's experience: 29 years
  • Hobbies: Cycling, photography
  • Community activities: President of Kiwanis Club in Laval;
  • fundraiser for wheelchair-bound basketball players and local sports teams
  • Special memories: Comraderie, conventions and outings
Meet franchisee
Pierre Brunet
  • Restaurant locations: Queen Mary, Beaumont,
  • Côte des Neiges, Westmount, Cavendish Mall
  • Marital status: married, one son
  • Favourite menu item: Cheeseburger
  • Favourite expression: "Teamwork, teamwork"
  • McDonald's experience: 30 years
  • Hobbies: Skiing, fishing
  • Community activities: Board of directors for Ronald McDonald House
  • Special memories: People I've worked with
Warren Perley, a former career journalist, is president of Ponctuation Grafix, a marketing and graphic design studio (