John Valluzzo has been part of a McDonald’s family almost his entire life. He was a toddler when his father and grandfather opened two restaurants in Baton Rouge during the early 1960s. His grandfather, Rocco Valluzzo, was first in the market.
Between 1982, when Valluzzo joined, and 2010, the company grew from 12 franchises to 56, he says. Then the business was split in two, and Valluzzo broke off with 30 locations.
After buying 13 stores from another franchisee, Valluzzo oversees 43 restaurants from Port Allen to Poplarville, Mississippi (about 46 miles up I-59 from Slidell). He employs about 2,300 people, and his locations likely will generate more than $100 million in annual revenue, he says.
The additional restaurants were already staffed, so everyone knows how to work for McDonald’s. But different franchisees have different approaches. As Valluzzo puts it, “they’ve gotta learn us, and we’ve gotta learn them.”
“It starts as simple as a plan,” he says when asked how his organization prepares for rapid growth. “The plan will cover your financial needs, your human resource needs and your capacity to manage needs.”
“Financial needs” is self-explanatory, and Valluzzo says McDonald’s has specific requirements in that area. He says he has the right team in place, and they are able to shoulder the bigger load.
“I’ve got some very, very strong people who work in this organization and make it what it is,” he says. “We’re integrating appropriately, and we’re doing quite well with it.”
Valluzzo says his restaurant managers have an average tenure with his company of 19 years. He says business owners have a moral obligation to take care of their employees, and says his managers enjoy competitive pay and excellent benefits, including profit sharing and a 401(k) with a 5% employer match.
McDonald’s seemingly has been around forever, but it’s not an unchanging monolith. Over the past few decades, the menu has gotten longer and hours have been extended. The dual-lane drive-thru has been added, and digital menu boards have become the new standard.
The buildings get makeovers from time to time, and several of Valluzzo’s stores recently got new façades and interiors. Franchisees and franchisor work out those changes together, Valluzzo says, and he facilitated those conversations during his just-ended term representing more than 1,100 operators as chairman of McDonald’s Central Division Leadership Council.
And while McDonald’s is international, Valluzzo says he and his staff are rooted in their communities. When deciding whether to get his business involved in a cause, Valluzzo says he wants the impact to be felt where his restaurants operate. Those efforts focus primarily on children, he says, citing a recent school supplies drive as an example.
Valluzzo has two sons who have followed him into the company.
“They’ve seen by example what it takes to be successful in our business,” he says. “[My sons] are entitled to an opportunity. What you do with that opportunity totally resides in the next generation’s arena.”
Valluzzo says the lessons his sons learn from this growth spurt will serve them well down the road. Like most successful leaders, he assigns much of the credit to the people he leads.
“You’re only as good as yesterday,” he says. “Every day, when we get up, we know we’ve got to do it all over again today.”