Photo by Caitlin Puffenberger
This summer, 35 Fellows visited the Oak Brook, Illinois, headquarters of McDonald’s Corporation to learn about the company’s global business, history, and vision for the future—and, of course, to eat.    

In 1948 two brothers, Dick and “Mac” McDonald, opened a restaurant in San Bernadino, California, that specialized in 15-cent hamburgers, cooked fast. Now, almost 70 years later, the company they founded serves 70 million customers in more than 100 countries every single day

“McDonald’s is a global company with a global reach making a global impact,” said Jerry Krulewitch, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary, in his welcome remarks. As Fellows learned, globalization has changed not only where McDonald’s does business but how.

“We’re both a burger company and a real estate company,” explained Jenny Deang, Capital Finance Manager, during a session on how the McDonald’s franchise model has made the restaurant’s global success possible. McDonald’s is now on track to meet its goal of becoming 95 percent franchised—putting more business and decision-making in the hands of the people who live in the markets their restaurants are serving, according to Julia Howe, Senior Director of Global Franchising.

An original Ronald McDonald
costume from the 1960s.

Globalization also means that the company is constantly working to balance the needs of customers who want everything to stay the same—affordable burgers and fries—with the concerns of its increasingly diverse customer base, such as technology, sustainability, and health.

“We’re balancing core improvements and innovation,” explained Chef Mike Haracaz. The culinary team has its work cut out for it trying to maintain the classic taste of hamburgers and French fries while also improving ingredients. But that diverse customer base also makes room for menu innovation at a regional level—whether it’s a lobster roll in the northeastern United States or specially seasoned Shake Shake Fries in Hong Kong.

Innovation in sustainability is also expanding across McDonald’s, as Jenny McColloch, Director of Sustainability, explained to the Fellows. For example, McDonald’s is working with suppliers and farmers to help lead a global movement in beef sustainability, with a goal of achieving 100 percent sustainable sourcing of fish, coffee, palm oil, and packaging fiber. 

The company is also mindful of the quickly shifting demographics of both customers and employees; as Wendy Lewis, Chief Diversity Officer, pointed out, “Millennials will be 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. We can either have intergenerational engagement or intergenerational estrangement.”

McDonald’s Fun Fact:
Since 1955, McDonald’s has used enough ketchup to fill the Grand Canyon twice. 

For customers, this means family-friendly seating, table service, digital menu boards, and self-order kiosks. For employees, this includes employee business networks, unconscious bias training, and strategic engagement with everyone from the restaurant crew to the C-suite.

“If everyone’s culture, and their authentic selves, cannot be valued, we will never be an inclusive organization,” Lewis said.

Diversity and innovation are not just values for McDonald’s as a whole; they are also prominent in the company’s legal department, as Krulewitch underscored in his welcome: “As the General Counsel of McDonald’s, and the leader of the global Legal Department, diversity and inclusion are key priorities for me and for my team. We are a Member and supporter of LCLD, and we were one of a group of companies to sign on shortly after its inception.”

In addition to the wealth of information Fellows received from business leaders, two legal department leaders shared experiences and advice with Fellows.

Hal Merck, Associate General Counsel and Vice President of Global Litigation, discussed his career path and some of the most interesting cases he has handled at McDonald’s. He also reminded 2017 Fellows to make the most of their experience with LCLD: “Every year I tell new McDonald’s Fellows: take full advantage of the opportunity and be on the lookout for top-notch, diverse legal talent.” 

Fellows also heard from Mahrukh Hussain (left), Corporate Vice President and U.S. General Counsel. Hussain immigrated to the U.S. at age two and today leads a team of 80 lawyers and staff working on all McDonald’s legal matters in the U.S. She offered several pieces of advice on leadership, including: be a student of the business; be willing to take risks; and always operate at the highest level of integrity and ethics.

Hussain also reminded Fellows that it’s never too early to develop leadership skills: “You don’t have to wait until you have a leadership role to work on these. And if you start doing these things now, you may soon be in a better position to get a leadership role.”

The night before the Learning Experience, Fellows attended a reception at the Revival Food Hall hosted by LCLD Member firm Jones Day.  

LCLD would like to thank 2014 Fellow Monica Mosby and 2016 Fellow Shilpa Upadhye at McDonald’s Corporation, and Michael Gray and Katelyn Jerles at Jones Day. 

Photo Gallery

Photos by Caitlin Puffenberger