McDonalds: Susan Rawoteea

McDonalds: Susan Rawoteea


After spending 13 years in the corporate world, Susan was retrenched. At the time she thought this was the worst thing that could have happened, but in hindsight, she says it was actually a blessing,  as it gave her the push she needed to become a business owner. She knew that she wanted to get into franchising as she didn’t have the experience needed to own her own restaurant.

One other thing she was sure about was that she wanted to own a McDonald’s franchise, which is why she spent nine months “camping out” in a McDonald’s to observe how it operated. Her dedication and strong will paid off, and she is now the owner of three McDonald’s franchises located in Sandton, Sandton City and Rivonia.

With a Little Help…

Susan relies on the ability of her staff to run her three businesses. The Rock ‘n Roll store alone has ten managers employed to run the store. She says this is necessary as it is a 24-hour business, catering to large volumes. Susan has been involved in recruiting and training all of the crew working in her restaurants, with help from the franchisor.

For Susan, one of the most exciting parts of owning these businesses is promoting people who were first hired and trained as crew, into managerial positions. Susan knows it is important for her managers to be self-sufficient and has spent one-on-one time developing their skills. She also has a bookkeeper to free up her time so that she can focus on other aspects of the business.

The Right Start

The ‘average’ day for Susan starts at 5am on most days so that she can be at one of the restaurants by 6am. She likes to get in early to deal with three important issues – people, product and equipment. If there are problems with any of these and they are only dealt with later, she won’t be able to catch up for the day. Once she has checked that the first restaurant is fine, she goes to the next one.

Taking Time Out

Susan says that owning three franchises is “so easy” now, although in the first few years it was hard. The smooth operation of her businesses allows her to take some time off. Every year she goes away for a month and doesn’t even take her cellphone with her. She gets a break from the stores, and the stores get a break from her, which she believes is good for their relationship.

Becoming a Multiple Franchise Owner

For Susan, going from the owner of a single franchise to two was very difficult. She had to be available 24/7, and the two outlets demanded a change in mindset and the way she managed her restaurants. However, she says the move from two to three outlets was a lot easier.

Beyond Borders

Susan applied to McDonald’s and was sent to Australia for training in1997, just two years after the fast food giant arrived in South Africa. While in Australia she met her husband, who worked for the company. When she returned she opened the Rock ‘n Roll McDonald’s restaurant. The training took six months and Susan says she’s grateful to have had the opportunity to train in Melbourne where some of the world’s best McDonald’s franchises are based. She got the Rock ‘n Roll idea after seeing it in Chicago, and knew that it was possible to implement in South Africa as it suited her specific location.

Operator to Owner

When she opened her first McDonald’s franchise, Susan had to be very hands on. She worked 14 to 16 hours per day on the business, which included physically working in the outlet. She even spent time behind the grill area. After about three months she was able to remove herself a little from the franchise but still worked there every day.

Getting Her Hands Dirty

Susan still likes to spend two to three hours per day working in one of the restaurants.

She moves from the front counter, serving drinks and taking orders, to her favourite post, the drive through. This allows her to receive feedback from customers about the service they get. When she’s not in a restaurant, she works in her office at home where she can track sales figures on the McDonald’s global system. She has weekly meetings with her managers to discuss sales, controls in the restaurants, deviations, promotions and crew performance.