GOLDEN ARCHES: Mark Azul, Michel Muller, Courtney Leifels, Irma Fernandes, Russell Smith, John Espina and Allen Engreso celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Airlie Beach McDonald's.
GOLDEN ARCHES: Mark Azul, Michel Muller, Courtney Leifels, Irma Fernandes, Russell Smith, John Espina and Allen Engreso celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Airlie Beach McDonald's. Claudia Alp

Airlie Macca's celebrating 20 years

"OPERATOR wanted” - two words printed in the local newspaper marked the start of what would be a successful McDonald's franchise of 20 years in Airlie Beach for owner Michael Muller.

The Airlie Beach McDonald's is celebrating its 20 year anniversary this month after initially taking off in June 1998.

Mr Muller expressed interest in running a local franchise in the early 90s but it wasn't until he saw an advertisement in the Whitsunday Times for a McDonald's operator in Airlie Beach that his vision became reality.

Two years after putting his hand up for the role and undergoing an intensive interviewing process, Mr Muller opened the Airlie Beach McDonald's with a core menu of five burgerswhich he said has been the biggest change over the years.

"We had this core menu of just a handful of burgers to what we have today,” Mr Muller said, "But what's given us the opportunity or the avenue to be able to do expand that is the fact that we've changed our systems within the restaurant.

"The technology improvements have been immense since we first started. It's just incredible. So we can now serve a vastly fresher and vastly better quality menu than what we could 20 years ago.”

Airlie Beach McDonald's owner Michael Muller on opening day in June 1998.
Airlie Beach McDonald's owner Michael Muller on opening day in June 1998.

Since opening the Airlie Beach business, Mr Muller has opened two other McDonald's businesses in Bowen, 2009 and Cannonvale, 2010.

Far from the stigma of working in fast-food chains resulting in a dead-end job, McDonald's has hired 1,347 crew members from the local Whitsundays community, trained and developed 78 managers and helped 66 employees complete nationally recognised Traineeships.

Mr Muller said the key to developing employees and providing them with training to further their careers is the structured training that McDonald's offers, particularly for young staff.

"It gives them entry level into working experiences and there are a lot of businesses that do that, but where our business differs slightly is we have very structured training programs and we have very structured systems within our businesses,” he said.

"These days the way our training is meshed in with the Australian Standard of Training, McDonald's is now seen as such a highly qualified training organisation that I don't see that stigma as much as I used to see it say 10 years ago and more.

"It's very good for kids to learn structure in the workplace in the early years because it's something that the sooner you learn about workplace structure and how to interact with training and how it improves their customer service, the better because it's harder to learn it when you're 21 coming out of university.”

But behind every successful business is its community, and while the community has got behind its local Macca's, Mr Muller's business gets behind the community.

The McDonald's franchise in Airlie Beach sponsors many significant sporting events and community groups including Whitsunday Junior Rugby League, the Airlie Beach Running Festival and the Whitsunday Triathlon.

Mr Muller said his secret is his policy: he doesn't say no to anyone.

"I would say I get on average a letter a week to support or sponsor some organisation in the community,” he said. "Whether I'm giving them money to sponsor the event or 50 or 100 vouchers for free food, I just don't say no.”

"We really enjoy giving back to our community because through my experiences of growing up in this community, that's what given us the most back as well.”

But the most significant contribution to the community through McDonald's has been over $100,000 donated to Ronald McDonald House charities.

Mr Muller said at least 60 families in the Mackay and Whitsundays region have used Ronald McDonald House over the past year let alone the last 20 years.

"100 per cent of every dollar that goes to Ronald McDonald House goes directly towards helping children,” he said. There is no administration cost that come out of donations to the House.”

Three managers working under Mr Muller along with councillor Ron Petterson formed a committee, now in its fourth year, to run charity events such as balls and the Whitsunday Running Festival with funds raised donated to Ronald McDonald House.

The next charity event to be held will be a ball on October 28.


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