Dave Hamilton, 63, is a McDonald’s owner who has been with the company for close to 50 years. He currently serves as president of the Greater Atlanta McDonald’s Operators Association and he began his career with McDonald’s when he was just 16 years old, working as a crew member in Troy, New York. After graduating from high school, Hamilton continued working for McDonald’s as a full-time employee while earning his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from State University of New York — Utica. Following graduation, he continued working at McDonald’s, eventually becoming a restaurant and shift manager.
After a stint working with McDonald’s in Hartford, Connecticut, Hamilton took a job in McDonalds’ corporate office in Chicago as a field operations manager. Shortly thereafter, he became regional vice president in Texas and later vice president of all Western operations.
In the early 2000s, Hamilton left the United States to become executive vice president of McDonald’s in Japan, a job he held for over three years. Upon his return to the U.S., he returned to the corporate office in Chicago as chief restaurant officer and senior vice president, where he handled operator relations, operations technology and real estate acquisition and development. In 2010, Hamilton retired and moved to Lake Oconee, but his retirement was short-lived, as he had an urge to get back into the McDonald’s business. His family currently owns eight McDonald’s restaurants, including five in Cobb County on North Cobb Parkway, Jiles Road, Bells Ferry Road and Windy Hill Road.
Hamilton, who lives in Acworth, is passionate about helping his employees and family grow within the company and is a big supporter of Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities. He is happily married to his wife, Diane, and has three children, David, Christopher and Amanda. His son, David, currently owns one of the family’s eight restaurants and his son, Christopher, is in McDonalds’ Next Generation Program.
What inspires you to be successful?
I love working with people and providing opportunities for my family and employees. I am also very inspired by the great work we do for the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). The Ronald McDonald House is instrumental in providing access to quality health care and enabling family-centered care that ensures families are fully supported and actively involved in their child’s care.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy being in the restaurant with employees, customers and managers and watching young individuals develop into leaders. For example, I work with a woman named Catherine Mann, who started six years ago as a crew person and is now a supervisor. Watching employees like Catherine grow is the part I like most.
What are some of the challenges facing your industry and what are you doing to combat those challenges?
The biggest challenge is making sure we’re meeting our customers’ needs in today’s competitive and consistently-evolving marketplace. Ensuring all of our restaurants are run the correct way is also a challenge, but it inspires me to stay on top of my game.
To combat some of the challenges we’ve faced in our industry, we’ve introduced numerous items to the market, including our specialty line of McCafe beverages and drinks, Buttermilk Crispy Tenders and all-day breakfast, to name a few. We’ve also continued to evolve our Signature Crafted menu, which allows customers to customize their burger or chicken sandwich with tasty toppings and ingredients.
Tell us about your upbringing (where you grew up, parents’ careers, etc.) and how that might have shaped you in your life and career.
I was born into a solid family in a little town in upstate New York called Pleasantdale. My father worked two jobs, he was a baker and he delivered oil for heat. We didn’t have a lot of money and vacations consisted of camping in a tent, but we were a close-knit group. I learned early that if I wanted anything, I had to go get it. I took a job at McDonald’s when I was 16 and worked as a crew person after school every day. I’ve worked 40 hours a week from the day I was 16 years old and my hard work has allowed me to grow within the company from a crew person on up to corporate and beyond. When I left my parents’ house for college at 18, I continued working full-time at McDonald’s, even though I was a full-time college student. That’s ultimately how I paid my way through college; my parents simply didn’t have the money. After I graduated, I began my career with McDonald’s in earnest.
What does the future hold for your company/position? Any plans for growth?
Yes, our family business is growing. We currently have eight restaurants and anticipate bringing some additional restaurants online. My son, David, recently purchased one of my restaurants from me and my son, Christopher, is in McDonald’s Next Generation Program. The future of the business will be to continue the growth and development of my children and employees.