That’s McDedication: Man celebrates 51 years of working at Lockport McDonald’s
By Frank Vaisvilas Correspondent July 3, 2013 9:46PM
Current Lockport McDonald's owner Susan Stinnett (from left) with her parents, Helen and Pete Cinquegrani, and semiretired manager Wayne Adkisson. | Photo by Frank Vaisvilas~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 5, 2013 6:28AM
LOCKPORT — Hamburgers were 15 cents and fries were 10 cents around the time Wayne Adkisson began his career at McDonald’s.
In late June, Adkisson celebrated his 51st year with the company — along with his 67th birthday and semiretirement — at Lockport’s newer McDonald’s restaurant, 16519 W. 159th St.
“Wayne is a gentleman,” restaurant owner Susan Stinnett said. “He loves his customers and they love him.”
Adkisson began working for Stinnett’s parents, Pete and Helen Cinquegrani, at Lockport’s first McDonald’s on Jefferson Street when he was 16. When the Cinquegranis opened the location in 1956, it was one of the first 15 McDonald’s restaurants in the area, Helen Cinquegrani said.
The company now has more than 34,000 restaurants worldwide.
“Who would’ve thought? We had no idea when we bought our franchise,” Helen said.
Adkisson was one of countless teenagers who worked for the Cinquegranis throughout the decades.
“God bless the teenagers,” Helen said. “That’s all I can say. Without them, we wouldn’t be anywhere.”
While many employees have gone on to do other things, Helen said many have established their careers with McDonald’s.
Before working for the Cinquegranis, Adkisson delivered the Spectator newspaper in the Joliet area, he said. But he considers working at McDonald’s his first real job.
His pay started at $1 per hour, but he said the manager liked him.
“After three months, I got a 10 cents raise, which was unheard of,” Adkisson said.
The Joliet native once considered a career in mechanical engineering, and in fact was studying it at Joliet Junior College.
However, he was doing so well at McDonald’s he was soon promoted to the position of a store manager. And he discovered he really liked working for McDonald’s and its family atmosphere. He said the Cinquegranis were nice to work with and all the employees were like family.
So Adkisson said he decided to change his educational focus to business.
He earned in his degree in “hamburgology” from McDonald’s Hamburger University in Oak Brook in 1970. There he learned from a professor in an auditorium-style classroom everything there was to know about McDonald’s products, such as what part of the cow the beef comes from and that the fries had to come from a certain size of russet potatoes.
Although some people criticize McDonald’s food for not being very healthy, Adkisson said the company is simply responding to the market.
“The average person keeps coming back,” Adkisson said. “It’s the taste that keeps them coming. ... Americans buy what they want.”
Throughout the years, Adkisson said the company has tried healthier products, such as the McLean burger, which didn’t sell well.
He said he recalls when the restaurant began serving yogurt shakes and senior citizens would tell him that they “wanted the real thing.”
“We give them what they want,” Adkisson said.
He said the new shakes are healthier because less cream is used, but they are still tasty.
While Adkisson still embraces the McDonald’s philosophy, he’s looking forward to stepping down from the day-to-day responsibility of managing a store.
He said a store manager has to be on-call 24 hours a day. For example, if the power goes out he would have to find a way to get it back on.
Instead, he’ll spend more time with his wife, whom he married just five years ago. This is his first marriage, but Adkisson said, “It’s never too late.”
Still, he said he enjoys being at McDonald’s and working with customers and employees, so he won’t fully retire as administrative manager.
“As long as I feel good, I’ll keep working,” Adkisson said.
That’s good news for Pete Avila, who manages the McDonald’s in Lockport.
“He’s a funny guy with a good sense of humor,” Avila said. “He’s sweet with all the customers. If we get a complaint, we let him deal with them.”