Calvin Paris comes from a line of entrepreneurs.
His grandmother owned a motel in Jacksonville, and his grandfather had a barbershop. His mother and father worked in real estate and accounting before transitioning into the fast food industry.
Paris says he remembers coming home to see envelopes from Burger King, Popeyes and Churches on the table as his parents figured out which way to go.
Paris has followed in their footsteps and owns, along with his mother, nine McDonald’s locations in Gainesville.
“I worked all my life in the business,” Paris said in an interview. “Started out just cleaning toilets and picking up trash in the parking lot because I wasn’t tall enough or big enough to do anything else.”
He joined the business after college, and in 2000, the family moved to Gainesville to operate the McDonald’s restaurants here.
Paris became a restaurant owner in 2002, and his role varies from day to day. Sometimes he’s at a restaurant pitching in, while other days require more management work.
As a business owner, Paris said you control your future in many ways and hold responsibility for the outcomes. With multiple 24-hour locations, that means it’s not a 9-to-5 job.
He says the most rewarding position he’s held is as restaurant manager.
“You can go in and make an immediate difference right then and there as a store manager,” Paris said.
The role requires working through others, which involves getting to know others but also letting others get to know you, he said.
Preparing food for people is tougher than many people think, Paris said, especially when you consider the daily quantity of customers at McDonald’s.
He said a power of the franchise is that it has a system for everything—even a proper way to shovel snow for northern stores. But that system can make the work seem deceptively simple.
“McDonald’s has made the systems, and we’ve done so well for so many years that the expectation is for you to have your stuff yesterday,” Paris said.
The system has also changed over the last several years with the rise of online ordering and delivery.
Kiosks have also changed the layout of McDonalds dining rooms and drawn some ire. Paris said he’s heard how kiosks eliminate workers, but he says restaurants need more workers now than ever.
Using the analogy of a bathtub, Paris explains that mobile ordering is a water tap that pours into the tub and out the drain. Another tap is ordering from the cashier, another three taps could be kiosks, plus one or two taps for the drive thru and ordering apps like DoorDash or Uber Eats.
With more taps than ever before, stores need more people making the food and getting it out the door—in other words, water down the drain. Otherwise, the water will start spilling over the sides.
“It was never about taking jobs away,” Paris said. “McDonald’s ain’t trying to lose no money. McDonald’s is trying to make more money. And the more people coming through, that’s how we make more money.”
Ranked as 157 on the Fortune 500, McDonald’s has successfully made money for years, but Paris said it’s also fulfilling to see how the company gives back.
He said Gainesville’s Ronald McDonald House is first-rate thanks to its partnership with UF Shands Pediatrics, which ranks among the top pediatric hospitals in the Southeast.
Through the Golden Grants program, the restaurant has supported 10 North Florida educators.
Even before his parents settled on McDonald’s as a business route, Paris said he loved the franchise, and that feeling remains.
“I’ve always loved McDonald’s,” Paris said. “It’s just something I enjoy doing—from the interaction with others to being a part of the best franchise out there.”
This is the second in a series of stories featuring Black-owned businesses and organizations during Black History Month. To read last week’s story, click here.