This menu team member is willing to fight for our food because she believes in our team

January 01, 2019

Anyone who works here knows the past few years have brought a lot of change. A new address, new ways of working, new expectations to keep pushing McDonald’s ahead of ever more intense competition. But something that has never changed here – and never will – is the power and importance of teamwork. For Melanie Hoffman, Manager on the US Brand and Menu Strategy Team, teamwork is the key ingredient to creating a place where people want to work. And where has she seen the most impressive teamwork at McDonald’s? In the restaurants, naturally.

Melanie played soccer throughout her youth and later on the club team at The George Washington University. When she sees the way restaurant crew members work together, it reminds her of her time on the soccer field. 

“On the soccer field, you would never say, ‘Oh, I don’t play defense, I can’t cover that position.’ You play wherever you are needed even if it’s a position you’ve never played before. It’s the same way in the restaurants. Crew pitches in whenever, wherever help is needed and that’s what makes them close,” she said.

Commitment to teamwork creates an environment that empowers employees to take risks and try big ideas. Essentially, the supportive feeling of a team fosters an atmosphere for the kind of up-and-coming leaders we need.

When Melanie joined McDonald’s, she quickly saw the opportunity to foster the team spirit that she saw in the restaurant and on the soccer field.

 “You know when you start a new job and you have all these questions that are kind of lame and unimportant so you don’t want to bother your boss? I wanted to connect people to someone who they could feel free to ask those questions to – with no judgment, where no question is too small,” she explained.

So she spoke to her manager and created a program called “The Buddy System” that pairs new hires with a buddy who can provide the ‘no stupid questions’ safe place that is essential to a high-functioning team.

She described how she pairs up new hires with a buddy saying, “There is a lot of thought put into pairing, from past work experience to which category they are working on within the menu team.” The buddy system operates with only two rules. First, you must reply to your buddy’s emails/texts/IMs within 30 minutes. “You are their guide. They’re coming to you when they don’t know where else to turn – so answer them as quickly as you can,” she said. Second, buddies are required to meet up at least once a month for lunch or coffee.

Melanie’s idea caught on and the program grew from her team to the entire Menu department.

An unintended side effect? She’s creating a network that is likely to crisscross the entire company.

The McDonald’s System is a massive organization. That’s a huge advantage. If you want to learn about a different sector of the business, do it. There is room for you to plot a career path. “One of the first things my team made clear to me when I joined the company was that I was not going to be on Menu forever,’” Melanie said. “I've been encouraged, even expected, to explore my interests since day one and that is something I really love about my team and McDonald’s.”

Through the buddy system, Melanie has helped connect people who will likely go on to take roles in many different parts of the company, creating bridges that will build a feeling of team unity among future leaders across McDonald’s. 

But her network of support goes beyond the four walls of MHQ.

Melanie is a proud recruiter for the unofficial McDonald’s fan club.

As employees, we are all intimately familiar with the changes we have made when it comes to updating our restaurants, removing preservatives from our food and using our scale for good. But the challenge is that many of our would-be customers don’t know about these remarkable changes. Many people have outdated or inaccurate perceptions of McDonald’s, and Melanie says we all can play a part in influencing the way our friends, family and others think about McDonald’s by sticking up for our team.

“When people hear I work on burgers, they will say ‘So, what’s really in the meat??’ I always defend our beef and I talk for so long and in so much detail that they usually regret making a comment,” she said.

It’s personal to Melanie. She knows owner/operators, crew and support staff in multiple cities. She’s been to our suppliers’ facilities and met ranchers that are a part of our system. She’s on the Menu team. She’s proud of the food her team develops. And don’t even get her started on other coffee places. “I don’t go. My buddy works on McCafe product development!”

Her commitment to her team is beautiful. Period. And it might sound opportunist, but it’s also exactly what our business needs.

We have a perception challenge, but we can change it. “Bring your friends to the restaurant and show them what our food tastes like,” she encouraged. Let them try a fresh beef burger… if you’re in Canada, tell them about sustainable beef goals, if you’re in the UK, point them to our Rainforest Alliance certified coffee. Let our food speak for itself.

“I just took a road trip with two of my friends last month and we stopped at McDonald’s on the way there. I made them try the Bacon Smokehouse, which I worked on developing. They absolutely loved it. They were shocked that a burger with such complex flavor came from McDonald’s and that is exactly the reaction I wanted. Surprise creates the strongest memories," Melanie said. On the way back her friends chose to stop at McDonald’s and get the burgers again. That’s what you call customer conversion.

Melanie is the prime example of the trust and good will that can be built for our business when employees act as ambassadors for our brand.  If you believe in your team, in all of our teams, show it off. They deserve it. And hey, it’s good for business.

At the end of the day, teamwork makes you feel like you’re a part of something that is bigger than yourself. As a company with great ambition, that’s exactly what we need.

This is a series highlighting our people and the inspiration behind their amazing work at McDonald’s. Within the Arches: These are our stories.