Award-winning manager opens up about life at McDonald's during pandemic

A Windsor-based McDonald's manager has been awarded the Outstanding Manager of the Year. Brian Bates shares his experience working throughout the pandemic as well as tips and tricks for McDonald's lovers, including the true identity of Grimace.

Brian Bates also answers the long-debated question: What is Grimace, anyway?

Brian Bates, the winner of Outstanding Manager of the Year began working at McDonald's when he was 19. He worked for several locations over the last 10 years. (Submitted by Brian Bates)

The manager of a McDonald's franchise in Windsor has been named Outstanding Manager of the Year, putting him in the top 10 per cent of managers working at over 1,400 restaurants across Canada. 

The prize recognizes Brian Bates' exceptional leadership which came at a time when his leadership faced a great challenge — COVID-19. 

He said, throughout the course of the pandemic, McDonald's drive-thru remained open while other businesses and retail stores closed. It wasn't easy.

"It was a little scary because we didn't know what to expect or what we were heading into. But I have to say all the members of my team really banded together and did an excellent job reacting to all the daily changes that came our way. That made it a lot easier to adjust to," Bates said. 

The lockdowns also forced changes in the restaurant that really changed its atmosphere.

"McDonald's so full of laughter and smiles and you can hear kids playing. To have the dining room closed and the chairs stacked up was a little heartbreaking," Bates said. 

Unlike several retail and food industry businesses, Bates said McDonald's did not have problems maintaining staff throughout the pandemic. 

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The training program for new employees was revamped during the pandemic.

"We're checking in with them more frequently to make sure that they're feeling comfortable and secure in what they're doing so that way we don't have anybody slipping through the cracks," Bates said. 

Bates himself has been with the business for the last 10 years and has worked at seven different McDonald's locations. His first job, when he was 19, was working the drive-thru at a McDonald's on Huron Line. He soon discovered a passion for the company. 

"It always seems to attract really positive, high energy people. It's a really fun place to be," Bates said. 

"It's been a fun ride over the years," Bates said. 

Tips and tricks

Over the years Bates has tasted many classic menu items and limited time offers. His favourite order continues to be the quarter-pounder with cheese.

He said McDonald's lovers should keep their eyes peeled for the new Spicy McNuggets, set to be released on the menu next week. 

While McDonald's has been known to a lot of customers for being budget-friendly, Bates said there are ways to save money with increasing prices.  

"A lot of prices are going up and that's just the way the world works and McDonald's is no exception but I think we still offer great value for our guests," he said. 

A new rewards program, direct mailer coupons and a mobile app are some of the new options for families and individuals looking to save. 

What is Grimace, anyway?  

Bates also unofficially revealed that Grimace, one of the McDonald's happy meal characters, is in fact, a taste-bud. 

"He is an enormous taste bud, but a taste bud nonetheless," Bates said. 

The purpose of Grimace is to show the food tastes good. 

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