Tony Philiou has learned the secret to running a business in his 60-year career with McDonald’s: take care of your crew and they’ll take care of you.
In order to make the necessary renovations to his McDonald’s franchise, Philiou would be forced to close the location for 3 months.
His 90 employees would be cut out from their livelihood during that time and potentially longer.
Philiou recognized the immense financial strain that would put on his employees, “As I’ve been in their shoes, I could sense their concern,” and chose to continue paying all 90 employees their usual wages throughout the renovations.
“There was nobody in the world who could change my mind on what I thought was the right thing to do,” he said. “Whatever they were already earning, that’s what they got.”
90-year-old Tony Philiou began his career with McDonald’s in 1962, slicing cheese for 90 cents an hour.
He initially took the job as a source of extra income to pay for renovations to the home he shared with his wife and two young children.
His attitude quickly changed and with the guidance of his employers, Philiou set himself towards what became a life-long career with McDonald’s.
“They saw something in me that I didn’t know I had,” Philiou said of his employers. “I saw an opportunity, and that I belong in the service industry.”
Over the years he rose through the ranks from his first job slicing cheese, to supervisor, to management.
Philiou, who immigrated from Greece in 1947, became the franchise owner of the Mayfield Heights, Ohio McDonald’s in 1978.
Philiou credits his advancement in part to the strong support of his supervisors over the years. He hopes to fill a similar mentorship role for his employees and help them grow with the company.
The restaurant’s general manager Ed Kocsis thinks extending paychecks was a “fabulous” decision.
“Employees were floored, and they were extremely appreciative,” he said. Kocsis, now 55, started working for Philiou in 1982 when he was 15 to money for college. He worked summers while earning his degree in business management from Kent State.
After graduation, Philiou encouraged him to stay on in a managerial position.
Kocsis is far from the only employee to have dedicated decades of their lives to Philiou’s McDonald’s.
In the midst of the so-called “Great Resignation”, the longevity of Philiou’s workforce is a noticeable standout, particularly in an industry rife with resignations.
“Our turnover is very low compared with other quick-service restaurants,” said Kocsis. “I think it’s because they enjoy working here, and they’re treated with respect. They feel good working here, so they want to stay.”
Philiou addressed his 90 employees in a speech informing them of the closure: “I’m hoping that you come back with me when I open up the store to run a beautiful store in this lovely community of Mayfield Heights.”
Out of 90 employees, 88 returned to work after the 3-month renovation. They two that left were a pair of siblings who had “moved to California”.
Philiou makes a point to ensure his employees know he sees their hard work.
“Whenever they do something good, we pat their shoulder and say,‘That’s a great sandwich you just made,’ ” said Philiou.
“We praise them and thank them, and it definitely makes them reach for more.” He also regularly organizes pizza parties and other events for his staff.
“Each one of my employees has a talent,” added Philiou, “They motivate me, and I motivate them.”
An excited crowd watched Philiou cut the ribbon at the restaurant’s grand re-opening on July 5th.