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Dorothy Stingley, a McDonald’s Owner, Builds a Thriving Business on a Model of Advocacy

Wayne, Ronald McDonald, and Dorothy Stingley
Wayne Stingley, Ronald McDonald, and Dorothy Stingley

How does a farm girl from a tiny town in Michigan become an owner/operator of 15 McDonald’s stores? With some luck, timing, determination, and most of all, by creating opportunities.

Dorothy grew up in Muir, Michigan, a town of 500 people. “Even at that time, I think they were counting all the people in the cemetery,” Dorothy says.

The first of her family to go to college, Dorothy attended Michigan State University on a full-funded competitive scholarship.

With a degree in Consumer Community Services and Family Studies, Dorothy acquired skills in training, HR management and job development in the public and private sector. Her emphasis was on non-formal education.

Dorothy’s Start

“I came out of college at a time when women were subjugated. I’m an anomaly. I married for the first time at age 38. I lived and worked with my husband Wayne for eight years before we got married.”

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, McDonald’s was looking to increase minority representation in franchisees. Former schoolteachers and police officers were good as McDonald’s operators, especially in the city restaurant locations, because they knew how their way around the city and were good coaches and mentors. “Wayne had the skills that they wanted in restaurant owner/operators.”

Wayne’s brother played for the N.E. Patriots. So, he had name recognition. When Wayne interviewed to become to a McDonald’s operator, the licensing director was a big fan. They didn’t talk McDonald’s, they talked football. “In the Stingley family, sports are the family business,” says Dorothy. That’s the story of how Wayne got his first restaurant in Chicago.

Wayne had been in the business less than two years, when he and his wife separated, and he was now responsible for a brand-new fledging business and five children. Five kids

How the Romance Began

Dorothy first meet Wayne at a Leadership workshop in Chicago.

“That’s how I met Wayne. All the guys had dated their way through the single women in the Chicago cohort and were working their way throughout the Midwest cohort. If you asked the guys, they would have a different version of it, but you know with women, we always tell the truth.”

From 1982-1990, Dorothy lived and worked with Wayne in his McDonald’s business, blended their families, and resided in Hyde Park. “Especially for families like ours, who are interracial, Hyde Park was the place to be,” says Dorothy.

The black owners of McDonald’s were a big group and influential. They supported and promoted Operation PUSH (a social justice and civil rights organization founded by Jesse Jackson), the Bud Billiken Parade (the largest African American parade in the U.S.), and Michael Jordan was just starting to be known. In fact, Jordan appeared in McDonald’s advertising in the 80’s.

“One Was Hers, Four Were His, One Was Mine, One Was Ours” and They Married…

Wayne and Dorothy married in 1990 and officially blended the family. Wayne had five children from his previous marriage, and Dorothy had a 3-year-old daughter when they met. Their son was born in 1993. Currently they have seven children, 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Several of their children and grandchildren now work in the Stingley McDonald’s business.

In 1993, Dorothy and Wayne had the opportunity to sell their restaurants on the S. side of Chicago. The National Black Owners Association assisted them in finding an opportunity to relocate so they could grow their business, and they ended up in Phoenix. In 1998, Dorothy was approved as a McDonald’s operator and over the next few years, Wayne and Dorothy became franchisees together. They currently own 15 stores.

Dorthy Stingley & Family
The Stingley Family, Christmas 2021

The Importance of Advocacy

Dorothy and Wayne have built their business on a model of advocacy; the advocacy that has helped them to grow and prosper, and the advocacy they provide for others as a way of giving back to both the McDonalds System (owner/operators and employees) and the communities they serve.

The Stingleys, first and foremost, believe in giving back and in providing opportunities for others. They have been career-long supporters of RMHC (Wayne serves on the global Board of Trustees) and are past recipients of the Gerry Newman McTLC Award of Excellence for their legacy of philanthropy through their support of RMHC and many other local and national organizations including Andre House, Teach for America and Habitat for Humanity. In addition, they have been recognized for their work with The Hunger Project, a global NGO, a catalyst for the end of hunger and poverty. (www.thp.org)

Dorothy became involved in McDonald’s Woman Operators Network (W.O.N.) as soon as she became an approved owner/operator. She credits that organization with providing the education, advocacy and relationships that helped her to grow and succeed as a McDonald’s franchisee.

Dorothy has served as W.O.N. Chair since 2017 and on the Board since 2011.

As the W.O.N. chair, Dorothy is a member of National Franchise Leadership Alliance (NFLA). As she became immersed in the work of the NFLA with McDonald’s Senior Leadership, she found her passion for people, especially from a women’s perspective.

The majority of store managers and of the workforce in McDonald’s are women, and 28% of U.S. franchise owners are women. Dorothy was then asked to be the Executive Sponsor of the NFLA People Team at McDonald’s.

“This goes back to my degree in college. I’ve been trained in the mobilization of communities for self-reliant action. I enroll people in the possibility of embracing new ideas, that’s what I do. The pandemic, evolving our Employee Value Proposition and meeting people where they are at work, in these challenging times, has been a challenge and a joy.”

Adaptation: The Key to Survival in the Restaurants

McDonald’s has grown significantly during the pandemic, but they’ve had to pivot. It used to be that the only options for ordering were at the front counter or via the drive thru. Not anymore.

Dorothy employs young people who are digital natives. “The technology we have in restaurants isn’t overwhelming to them; it’s normal to them. Download the app, order from Uber Eats or Grubhub, and get It delivered to your door. Or, if you’re at the airport, sit down at a table, order on an app, and tell them where you’re sitting.”

“We’re no longer burger flippers at McDonald’s. We are the innovators and developers of the technology of delivering food the way people need it and want it in our current social environment. We’ve had to pivot and adapt, which has been done by our people; people in the restaurants that have gone into work every day during the pandemic.”

Without her employees, Dorothy has no business. “If my customers couldn’t order remotely or through the drive thru during the pandemic, and if my employees couldn’t feel safe at work, I was out of business in March 2020.”

Dorothy has made business decisions every minute of the pandemic based first and foremost on the needs of the people who work in the restaurants.

“A very astute group of McDonald’s owners and operators worked to make sure that we could get access to the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program). Because of this support we were able to keep our doors open and provide paid time off when employees were ill or quarantined during the pandemic.” All of Dorothy’s employees have access to telemedicine and mental health support for up to eight members of their family. Plus, the McDonald’s system provides tuition assistance through Archways to Opportunity (ESL, High School and College).

“We must continue to tap into the evolve as employers, mentors and workplaces where people thrive and love their job!”

20 Years+ with R. Jeffrey & Associates

“The reason I started doing business with Jeff in the first place is because compliance in the workplace is one of the most complicated things for us to navigate in the workforce today. Not only do Jeff and his organization have the expertise I was seeking to outsource, but Jeff is a positive guy whose values match my own. “

“To be a great place to work, you must engage partners. You can’t do it all in-house, it’s too much to keep up with. I have Jeff processing my WOTC (Work Opportunity Tax Credit) and ERC (Employee Retention Credit) tax credits. I can trust Jeff and his team to keep me up to date and keep me in compliance. I’m happy to pay them their fee, to help me get those credits, so that my staff, who are specialists in running McDonald’s restaurants, are not trying to maintain a database on workplace compliance.”

What is Dorothy most proud of?

“We are building and always evolving a people-first culture with a commitment to providing a workplace where people can build skills for the rest of their careers. Providing a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace and developing a team of mentor-managers is our focus.”

Dorothy’s motivation for everything she does is to leave the world a better place, ensuring people are more self-sufficient and have access to other opportunities. She is an opportunity creator, through and through.