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Four Decades Of Happy Meals

By Suzanne Cosgrove, posted Aug 11, 2017
Dennis Anderson has been a local franchise owner of McDonald’s for decades, growing to 17 restaurants and nearly 900 employees under the McAnderson’s Inc. banner. (Photo by Michael Cline Photography)
After more than 40 years with McDonald’s, Dennis Anderson, owner of McAnderson’s Inc. and Wilmington-based franchisee, has seen more than just French fries popping in the fryer and ketchup squirting between patty and bun.

Experiencing change has been inevitable for the owner of more than a dozen local Golden Arches.

Anderson believes that one recent change now stands at the basis of his company: the culture of honor. This honor started in his restaurants four years ago and “has the ability to change the attitudes of people,” according to Anderson.

“We want to honor our employees; we want to honor our community; we want to honor McDonald’s,” he said.

As part of the ownership split in McAnderson’s 17 restaurants in and around the Wilmington area, Anderson owns 15 of them, and his son holds the other two. The group currently employs about 875 people.

When hiring employees, Anderson said he looks for individuals who will be the most successful within this culture.

“I’m so honored to be associated with my employees. We really are a family,” he said.

Anderson bought his first Mc- Donald’s location in 1974, located on Shipyard Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road. Throughout his many years as an owner and operator, he has seen a number of his employees advance within the company and garner success of their own.

Two of Anderson’s supervisors have been with him since he bought his first location, one of whom he hired when she was only 16. Another past employee is now CEO of Tennessee-based Dollar General. Others have traveled the world working in foreign McDonald’s locations.

“My biggest joy is to observe somebody and help promote them into an arena that they had no idea they were capable of. I love seeing success,” Anderson said.

Managing employees has become more complicated in recent years as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) tests the franchising model. Recent court cases have brought into question the relationship between the fast food giant McDonald’s and franchisees.

The NLRB suggests that the two should be treated as “joint-employers,” which means that the McDonald’s corporation would have responsibility over franchisees’ employees.

Anderson calls it a “ludicrous issue” and that he has had to plan around the idea.

“Each one of us as franchisees, we determine what our own employee practices are going to be,” he said. “Our focuses are different, and to claim that McDonald’s determines my employees is totally wrong.”

The wave of lawsuits in other parts of the country that have tested the franchising relationship came as a result of employees who claimed mistreatment by their individual franchisee owner.

This caused Anderson to take a closer look at what he offers.

“I looked at my benefit package and my plan and my thought is to always be the best and when I studied it again back then, I found out I was the best,” he said in reference to what he offers compared to other McDonald’s franchisees and corporate-owned locations. “That’s my commitment to my employees.”

Other changes within the corporation have been a little tastier than court cases and franchising models.

“To me, the menu changes are really exciting,” Anderson said. “I have watched the progress of our menu down through the years.”

Ever heard of onion nuggets? How about the McDLT or McJordan Special? These are some of the menu items that vanished just as quickly as they arrived over the years.

The recent move to all-day breakfast, on the other hand, is a menu change that has been a longtime request of many McDonald’s customers and is here to stay, at least for now, according to Anderson.

“We listen to our customers. A good example of that is all-day breakfast. They kept asking for it and asking for it, so we came out with that,” he said.

Some changes have made things more challenging.

“It’s the march of regulations; it’s been very difficult,” Anderson said.

Recently, McAnderson’s Inc. redid its South College Road store. While under construction, the restaurant’s roof had to remain open for inspections. The mandatory inspection was delayed for several days and as Wilmington weather would have it, the rains came. Anderson said that he lost his ceiling and water heater as a result.

875: Number of people McAnderson’s Inc. employs

17: McAnderson’s Inc. locations around Wilmington

1974: Year Dennis Anderson bought his first McDonald’s location

1,800:  Average pounds of fries a typical McAnderson’s restaurant used in a week in June

“I think that the inspections have gotten tougher and tougher and tougher down through the years, especially in building stores,” he said. “If we can help the inspections department somehow in our county, I think it will be helpful for all our businesses.”

Inspections and rain are not, however, a part of Anderson’s typical day on the job.

Before joining McDonald’s, Anderson worked with IBM. He said that because of this experience, he enjoys computing and working with numbers.

On the average day, Anderson gathers and posts numbers from all his locations and visits the restaurants he has questions about.

“My goal and my desire is to be the best at everything that we do,” he said. “And being the best means constantly striving and studying how we can improve, so that’s been my focus now through the years is improvement and with improvement comes change.”

Since buying his first storefront, Anderson at one point ran 19 locations until he sold two to owner and operator Tim Denny.

Change and difficult situations have challenged Anderson through the years, but adaptation and survival are all just a part of the job, according to the longtime franchisee.

“Being a successful businessman is not a given, you got to work at it,” Anderson said. “There have been a lot of changes, but we just study it. We do what’s right and it works.”

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