A McDonald’s worker who started as a cleaner earning $1.28 an hour now owns 20 franchise restaurants – and plans to open more

McDonald's worker
McDonald’s opened its first US restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955. Yaoinlove/Shutterstock
  • A McDonald’s worker who started out as a cleaner in 1981 now owns 20 franchise restaurants.
  • Doug Wright went from a cleaner earning $1.28 an hour to restaurant manager within four years.
  • He moved to an admin role in McDonald’s regional HQ, and opened his first restaurant in 2002.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Doug Wright started working at McDonald’s as a cleaner at age 16, earning a wage of 93 pence ($1.28) an hour.

He now owns 20 of the chain’s restaurants – with plans to open more – and employs more than 2,000 staff.

Wright told Birmingham Live that he started working as a part-time cleaner at a McDonald’s restaurant in Bedford, central England, the day before he finished high school in 1981.

“Back then it was a hamburger restaurant that was hardly ever heard of,” he said.

McDonald’s opened its first US restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955, but didn’t arrive in the UK until 1974.

McDonald's franchisee Doug Wright
Doug Wright became a restaurant manager just four years after starting as a cleaner. McDonald’s UK

The burger chain then expanded rapidly. It had opened 100 stores across the UK by 1983 – and a further 100 by 1986.

After two months as a cleaner, Wright was made a part-time general assistant and became full-time two weeks later, he said. He was promoted to restaurant manager around four years later, aged 20 – making him McDonald’s youngest restaurant manager in the UK at the time.

But just six months into the role, Wright broke his neck in a car crash and was told he would never be able to walk again, he said. McDonald’s moved him into an administrative role across a range of departments at its regional headquarters, where he worked from 1988 to 2002 – a period of massive growth for the chain.

Wright now owns 20 restaurants – and plans to open more

Then Wright decided to become a franchisee.

McDonald's franchisee Doug Wright
Doug Wright opened his first franchise restaurant in 2002 – and now owns 20. McDonald’s UK

“It was always my dream to own my own business,” Wright said. “And McDonald’s offered me an opportunity. I was able to own and operate my restaurant. It was a name and brand I both loved and understood.”

He opened his first franchise restaurant in 2002.

In 2006 he bought his second restaurant – and kept buying more.

“Basically I wanted to create a big restaurant company and McDonald’s gave me that opportunity to build up a business and work with me to facilitate that,” Wright told Birmingham Live.

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He bought his 20th restaurant in 2019, and now employs around 2,100 staff across central England, the chain told Insider – making him one of McDonald’s largest franchise owners in Europe.

Wright, whose favorite McDonald’s meal is nuggets, a fruit bag, and a cappuccino, told Insider that he plans to open more restaurants, with the next one set for this fall.

“Back in 1981, I was pretty much unemployable and I’m still grateful that someone believed in me and took me on back then,” Wright told Insider. “I was too young to have any kind of plan so to me it was just a job and little did I realise how that day would shape my entire life going forwards.”

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