Many customers overlooked the new kid who’d just started his first job at a Miami McDonald’s.
It was 1984 and 16-year-old Marcos Quesada hadn’t even learned to speak English. Fortunately, his grandfather, a farmer, and his mother, a nurse aide, taught him a few values that extended beyond communication barriers. Quesada spoke the languages of hard work and eagerness to advance, personally and professionally.
Three decades later he declares, with a smile, that McDonald’s has been not just his first, but his “only job.” As the chain’s new vice president and general manager for more than 500 Michigan restaurants, Quesada is charged with overseeing operations in communities statewide, promoting leadership among team members who might travel similar paths.
“As a brand, we are always evaluating opportunities for growth, to not only benefit our company and our owner-operators, but also the communities in which we do business,” he says. “Our biggest announcement this year was our reinvestment in the city of Detroit, something that has instilled great pride in all of us affiliated with McDonald’s.”
Part of the reinvestment is the renovation of 14 restaurants, which would complete updates of all 28 Detroit locations, making franchises more inviting to customers, and complementing their neighborhoods.
Restaurants on both the east and west sides of Detroit have also helped answer the call for increased community safety, joining the Project Green Light program that identifies with a bright, mounted dome bulb businesses monitored by Detroit Police in real time. Quesada says the Detroit owner-operators’ goal is to enlist all Detroit franchises in Project Green Light by year’s end.
While his new position led to his first time living in Michigan, Quesada’s various posts within the company contribute to his understanding of diverse neighborhoods and their dynamics. After working his way up to manager of the Miami restaurant he eventually went to Puerto Rico, serving in McDonald’s international division. Other assignments included Panama and Mexico, before he returned to the United States.
“Every single country had a different culture,” he recalls. “The U.S. is very structural, but international is not. You make the Big Mac the same way, but the way you handle solutions is different, and you have to be more strategic.”
Strategies he brings to Michigan emphasize customer appreciation through initiatives like the recent donation of 2,000 backpacks for students returning to school. The Black McDonald’s Operator Association also plans to hold its annual holiday turkey giveaway again this month.
“I believe we have to work together with our franchises to give back to the community,” says Quesada.
Local McDonald’s restaurants help support Michigan’s economy through food-sourcing of menu items like eggs, milk, and fruit, part of $230 million spent in the state annually. Detroit’s family-owned C.F. Burger Creamery supplies ingredients that help make shakes and parfaits.
Staff investments like Michigan’s $753,000 in college tuition assistance to McDonald’s staff and management will continue, Quesada adds.
“By working hard and trying to be the best,” he says, “you’ll always find people who believe in you.”
Just as he found not one, but “several mentors,” Quesada mentors others within the corporation and outside the restaurant’s landscape.
The company is always considering growth and expansion opportunities for franchises in major cities, including Flint and Detroit, he adds.
There are four Hispanic owners in western Michigan, and opportunities remain available to all, he says.
Quesada, who has won numerous performance awards since his days as a kid Florida crew member, hopes to be an example of achievement and inspiration for both staff and customers.
“I hope people can read my story and get energized, and believe you can work hard, develop yourself, and move up through the ranks,” he says. “I tell my story a lot.”
Photos: Paul Engstrom