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eborah Virgiles was a McDonald's employee for 22 years when she was offered the opportunity to buy her own store.
"And I was ecstatic about it," she says. Deborah bought her first McDonald's in 1991 and just celebrated 43 years in the company. "When I became a McDonald's employee, it was all about the golden arches. It was my dream to become an owner/operator," she says. Today, she is the owner/operator of two McDonald's locations-one in Midtown and another in Rosedale Park in Detroit.
As an owner/operator, Deborah says she feels a sense of pride knowing that she can provide a positive workplace environment for her employees-and give the kind of great service for breakfasts, lunches and dinners that keeps patrons coming back.
"It gives me the feeling of being accomplished," she says. "Ultimately, I feel like my heart has reached its goal. Knowing that I have touched the lives of so many kids and employees, it takes me to a different level."
And Deborah plans to pay forward that feeling of accomplishment to her daughter, Dominique Virgiles, a next generation McDonald's owner/operator who currently works as a supervisor at both her mother's restaurant locations.
"I do remember at 4 or 5 years old, I always had my birthday parties at McDonald's," says Dominique fondly, adding, "because we give excellent birthday parties!"
Dominique says she relishes the responsibility to deliver "excellent" experiences and creating the same memories for other kids.
"It's a great feeling," says Dominique. "I am always a customer anywhere I go, so it's a privilege and a great feeling to know that now I am in charge of delivering great service to our customers. And knowing that I have over 20 managers between the restaurants and over 150 employees giving out the same great service as well-it's a good feeling."
Dominique says she's learned a lot working with and for her mother.
"We have our own personal relationship outside of McDonald's and we have a business relationship," says Dominique. "But the business relationship has made our personal relationship stronger," she says with a laugh, adding, "But we do have conversations (besides) McDonald's."
Dominique is also a devoted volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House® of Southeastern Michigan, where her mom serves as president. As Deborah explains, giving back to your surrounding community is an important part of being a McDonald's owner/operator.
"Without the community, there is no McDonald's," says Deborah. "Everyone in our community knows that I am (the president) because the community is built up of churches, schools, businesses, hospitals, the neighborhoods, your friends and family."
By engaging the community, she says, the restaurant helps create a positive relationship among community members.
"We have McTeacher's Night® where the schools will come in and the teachers and the counselors would work behind the counters," says Deborah. "And the students will come in and make a purchase to raise funds for the school."
As she explains, building trust as a business is important in establishing a relationship with the community.
"We work shoulder-to-shoulder with the community and are not afraid to have community leaders come behind the counter with questions about our food and how we do business," Deborah says. "We do store tours at our restaurants. I take them into my freezers, in my walk-ins, to let them know this is the real deal. These are the real products that we have in our stores. By word of mouth, that's how it gets out to the community."
But nothing gets out to the community faster than providing top-notch customer service.
"You have to treat all of our guests with the same respect that you would want to be treated by someone else if you went into another location. That is one of our biggest things at our restaurants-that we are a customer service-friendly organization," says Dominque. "We have hospitable cashiers when you come through the doors, and friendly people at our drive-thrus. So that is one of our top priorities that we try to keep: 100 percent customer satisfaction."