A Day at McDonald’s HQ (Chicago, IL) by Nicholas Gadbois

For years, Management Leadership Association (MLA) has prided itself with delivering knowledge and insights of the business world to its members. MLA hosts panel events, site visits, volunteer opportunities, and other activities in order to give students first-hand experience as to what their future careers may entail. 

Professor Michael Miller, who is the founder, and the executive board members of MLA planned a trip to go to the international headquarters of McDonald’s, based right here in Chicago. UIC Business students and members of the organization braved the cold and walked less than a mile to get a glimpse at an ordinary day at the headquarters of one of the most recognized brands in the world. The entrance to the building was located right next to their international restaurant where food items found on menus across the world are available such as their polish “Kaesar” sandwich. As we piled into the building, we were all given badges and escorted into the company conference room for a presentation on how international business works. 

Ann Wahlgren, the corporate VP for the Global Menu Planning (also a UIC alumna), and her team walked us through the logistics of catering to the needs of their customer base in different locations throughout the world. They emphasized the importance of acknowledging the customers’ needs by simply asking, “what do our customers want?” This simple question is perhaps why McDonald’s is so successful today. They are always analyzing customer feedback for what to introduce into the different markets. According to them, what people may want on one side of the world, may not be what people want on the other. For example, in their markets in Asia, they cycle through special food promotions on a monthly basis because that model is sought after on that side of the world. 

We were also given some inside knowledge about their newest project which is currently underway in some Canada locations. The plant-based food craze has finally reached McDonald’s and they have begun laying the groundwork to introduce their P.L.T (Plant, Lettuce, Tomato) to new markets. Once the presentation concluded, students were given the chance to ask questions about career paths found within the corporation. They then split us into three groups and gave us a tour of the facility. Each level that we were shown had something unique to offer. One level showcased their unique offices, quiet spaces, and conference rooms built with glass doors and reservation tablets for each room. Another level was composed of their state-of-the-art laboratories where they test products and teach incoming employees about the ins and outs of working in other McDonald’s facilities. Another floor showcased the history of the brand including past happy meal toys and historical equipment. The last part of the tour showcased the top floor where employees can workout at the gym facility, and attend company parties; McDonald’s has a party lounge where they treat their employees to a night of festivities to celebrate company achievements and milestones. 

Overall, UIC Business students and MLA members were given a great opportunity to learn firsthand about the operations of what makes McDonald’s such a prosperous company. At the end of the tour, we were all given a free lunch at the International McDonald’s restaurant where we all took the time to socialize and network with each other and discuss our favorite moments. Opportunities such as these provide our students with the knowledge and insights needed in order to be a successful business leader, which is what UIC Business and MLA strive to promote. Students were able to ask questions and learn about the successes and failures of the company and engage with the marketing and operation professionals hosting the tour. This is just one of the exciting events that MLA has hosted and plans to host more to give everyone an equal opportunity to acquire this exposure and become an informed business professional.