Manager shares her bizarre encounters after working at McDonald’s for almost 40 years

Reni Chng
The New Paper
15 May 2017

Almost four decades later, Ms Jennifer Hoo is still at McDonald's, and she is now a restaurant general manager (RGM).

Ms Hoo learnt about the job opportunity from a friend who was an RGM, and she became a regular part-timer from December 1979.

She joined because the environment seemed upbeat and vibrant.

"It was more for the fun element than for the pay," she said. She was paid $1 an hour when she was working part-time.

Initially hesitant, she eventually accepted a job as a full-time crew chief when she was 21.

She went on to become an RGM at the age of 23.

Ms Hoo was one of the earliest Singaporean participants of McDonald's Hamburger University programme in Chicago, where she took lessons to develop her management skills.

Professors would give participants problematic scenarios in an outlet and ask how they would improve the situation.

When she was 40, Ms Hoo was selected to enrol in the McDonald's University Accredited Programme and received a diploma in hospitality and management, fully sponsored by McDonald's.

Over the years, Ms Hoo, now 57, has worked at approximately 10 outlets and is familiar with all the jobs that have to be done in a McDonald's restaurant.

She worked an average of three years at each outlet before being transferred to another branch.

She has been transferred to outlets where she used to work before and says that she feels happy when she "sees the old faces there again".

Ms Hoo has a son who is 27.

"I didn't have too much trouble raising my son as a working mother, because I had support from my family," said Ms Hoo.

"Working in shifts helped too - sometimes I would have a bit of free time on weekdays."

When asked about the most surprising thing that she has encountered, Ms Hoo said that before the outlet at Plaza Singapura was open 24/7, someone broke in when it was closed and threw all the eggs against the wall.

"It was a shock when I went to open the shop in the morning," she said.

Challenges that Ms Hoo faces include keeping up with the changes in the workplace, such as technology upgrades.

McDonald's switched to touchscreen cash registers more than 15 years ago and implemented self-ordering kiosks in 2014.

Currently, more than half of the McDonald's outlets in Singapore have self-ordering kiosks, with more to come.

At times, customers can be tough to handle as well. Ms Hoo recounted a time when a customer, who ordered delivery and was not given a straw, berated her over the phone.

"She was agitated and kept saying, 'How do you expect me to drink without a straw?'," said Ms Hoo,

"We had to deliver a straw to her, along with another drink because she said her drink would be diluted by then.

"Sometimes I have to apologise even when it is not my fault," she added.

However, Ms Hoo insists her working environment is a warm place. She enjoys cracking jokes with her co-workers.

Her favourite part of the job is the RGM convention held annually, where she can travel to places such as Taiwan and Bali with other RGMs from Singapore.

McDonald's hopes to hire more people like Ms Hoo.

It rolled out its first large-scale National Hiring Day on Saturday last week.

More than 700 McDonald's crew members and managers gathered for a mass hiring drive.

About 120 participating McDonald's restaurants are also conducting back-of-house tours until this Friday for candidates who have submitted their job applications. McDonald's is aiming to attract 2,000 applicants in total.

Secrets of the trade

  • Be positive. The workplace is constantly changing, sometimes due to upgrades in technology. Learn to adapt rather than cling to past methods.
  • Time flies when you are having fun. It is important to love the work, otherwise you might end up dragging yourself to work every day.
  • Take it with a pinch of salt. When you encounter conflict, whether with co-workers or customers, learn to defuse the situation rather than get worked up over it.

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