Family affair: McDonald’s more than a fast food chain for mom and daughter
The recognizable golden arches have always been more than a place to get a burger, fries and a coke for this mother and daughter duo.
Mcdonalds is part of the family.
Michele Rice-Kirkwood owns and operates eight McDonald’s in western Pennsylvania, including one where her daughter, Brittany Neal, is the CEO.
“Michele and Brittany are a great example of what sets McDonald’s apart,” said Charlie Tang Newberger, McDonald’s Field Vice President. “At its core, McDonald’s is family-oriented. Whether it’s the families visiting us for a meal or the families who own and operate so many McDonald’s restaurants, family is what makes McDonald’s special.
Family is one of the main reasons Rice-Kirkwood and Neal are part of the restaurant group. The Rice family is from Akron, Ohio. Rice-Kirkwood’s father, James Rice, began his career with the company at the age of 17 as a cashier.
He bought his first restaurant on Summer Street in Boston. Rice-Kirkwood and her siblings started working at McDonald’s with her father when she was old enough.
The family moved to Buffalo, NY with McDonald’s before landing in Pittsburgh in 2000. They initially purchased four restaurants in the Pittsburgh area.
At one point, they had 16.
Rice-Kirkwood currently owns the South Park, Fort Couch Road, Brentwood, Pleasant Hills, North Side, Mt. Oliver, West Mifflin and Scott locations.
Neal is the general manager of the South Park site.
“Everywhere you go that you see one of these restaurants, you know what to expect,” Rice-Kirkwood said. “McDonald’s is consistent.”
When Neal was a teenager his mother would take him every weekend to the McDonald’s they owned in Steubenville Pike in Robinson. After a few hours, Neal would ask her why she had to be there all day.
“I told him ’cause you don’t drive and I have to be here,” said Rice-Kirkwood, whose son Christian, 28, is responsible for the landscaping at the eight sites. “I liked having him there. It reminded me of when I used to go to McDonald’s that my dad owned.
Neal got his first job at McDonald’s.
“I was so happy when I got this paycheck,” said Neal, 30, of Munhall, who is looking to become an owner / operator.
“I’m so proud of Brittany,” said Rice-Kirkwood, 50, of East Liberty. “She made her own choice to follow in my footsteps, just as I chose to follow in my father’s footsteps. I like this. I can’t wait to see where this path takes her.
This was the path Rice-Kirkwood saw her father take. She said it wasn’t always easy for him or his mom, Edith Rice, who she’ll be spending time with on Mother’s Day on Saturday, but they overcame obstacles to care for their family.
Her father, who died in May 2016, taught his daughter everything about the business. She said he had a vision. He was determined and resilient.
“He left a great legacy that I want to pass on,” Rice-Kirkwood said.
She said her legacy was not just providing jobs for employees, but helping them in life.
“My favorite part is coaching young men and women and giving them opportunities to move forward and achieve their goals,” she said. “Working at McDonald’s is more than taking a fast food order. ”
Rice-Kirkwood became Approved Owner / Operator on September 4, 2003. She said she looked to her father for the resources to take the next step and own a restaurant.
Rice-Kirkwood has approximately 400 employees.
As a business owner last year during the pandemic, it was difficult to tell repeat customers they weren’t open in the dining room.
Neal agreed, saying she still saw some of the regulars walk through the drive-thru and congregate in the parking lot. Staff issues have been tough as for many in the restaurant business during the pandemic.
“Customers are ready to come back but we want to make sure it’s safe for them and that we have enough staff,” Rice-Kirkwood said. “We want to see them.”
Neal said her mother works very well with her and allows her daughter to make decisions.
“I love what I do,” said Neal, who studied entrepreneurship and marketing at Kent State. “I’ve always wanted to own my own business. ”
When they’re not at work, they try not to talk about McDonald’s. They plan to spend Mother’s Day Sunday together.
Rice-Kirkwood said Neal always includes a personal note in a Mother’s Day card.
“She writes the best posts,” Rice-Kirkwood said.
“I respect my mom,” Neal said. “She is extremely inspiring and gives me good advice
She keeps it real and says it as it is. She is an independent woman.
The two will have dinner together tomorrow.
“No, we’ll probably go to a good restaurant,” Rice-Kirkwood said. “We love McDonald’s, but I was thinking of a place like Eddie V’s.”
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