Local McDonald’s restaurants set to repeat popular ‘Pay it Forward’ program

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Sarnia McDonald’s franchise owners Peter and Colleen Buckley have been so successful putting smiles on the faces of customers and their teams during their planned ‘Pay It Up’ March campaign. to do it again at the end of June.

Earlier this year, the Buckleys, owners of three McDonald’s locations in Sarnia and one in Strathroy, were looking for ways to boost morale after Lambton County was placed in the province’s gray pandemic zone.

Shortly after the government announced that the school break was to be moved to April, the owners said they knew they had to do something to stimulate the spirit of the community.

“Over the past few years, Colleen and I have made a habit of doing our drive-thru on a regular basis, buying food for ourselves and the kids. And we got into the habit of paying for the car behind us, just as a kind gesture, ”said Peter Buckley. “Then we let them know through our employees that the meal was paid for by the owners and told them to have a great day.

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“So when Sarnia-Lambton entered the gray zone, when most of the province was not, Colleen bought the car behind her. And it turned out that the woman she bought a McFlurry for was part of the Supporting Sarnia and Surrounding Businesses Facebook group, which has over 18,000 members, ”he continued.

“(The woman) was blown away, and a few days later a few of our managers were on social media and they showed us this woman’s post. She said it had been such a difficult time for her and she decided to treat herself to her favorite weekly treat, a McFlurry, and lo and behold the owner paid for it which made her day even brighter .

Helping to make someone’s day brighter, especially in the midst of a pandemic, made the Buckleys feel warm. It was a magical moment, said Colleen Buckley.

They decided they wanted to share that sentiment with restaurant staff in each of their four locations and named the new week-long campaign after a familiar old McDonald’s slogan.

“So when the March break was postponed… and we felt like we had to back and forth again from all of these facets of normalcy… Colleen and I were talking and we decided to find a way for our people, our crew to feel that way, to have that feeling of helping someone, ”said Peter Buckley. “While all the kids were still in school and it was supposed to be March break, we came up with the idea of ​​’You deserve a break today’, to steal the legendary McDonald’s jingle from years ago. seventy.

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“We have a system in place where anyone who works four hours or more in our restaurants, every time they take their break, can go to the kiosk behind the wheel and give a meal,” he added. “They have to say to the customer ‘on behalf of me and the owners, we think you deserve a break today’. There is no charge.

The couple wanted each of their employees to have the opportunity to donate a free meal, so they could see the smiles and reactions of customers.

“We wanted each of our crew to do this every time they work for a week, including the people at the grill, people who rarely come face to face with guests. So we took them out of their comfort zone and out the window to talk to people and share a meal, ”Buckley said. “Over the week… they all loved it. They all started looking forward to it, it started to build over the course of a week and inside our restaurants, despite the lockdown, it turned into this really shiny place.

“It was about giving our employees that personal connection and showing them the big difference that a small gesture can make,” he added.

“It was really about restoring a sense of normalcy for a time that is obviously not normal, just that feeling of being kind to each other,” said Colleen Buckley.

While most of the customers receiving free food were extremely happy, a small minority definitely had Spidey-sense tingling, her husband said.

“Some people were incredibly grateful and grateful, and others were like ‘no, no, I’m just going to pay, there’s no free lunch’,” Peter said with a laugh. “They were asking if they were. in front of the camera, if it was a joke, but the team were trying to shatter that understandable but jaded perspective, it was about giving back and making people feel better.

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“We also made sure that our team selects orders that have multiple items and doesn’t just give away free coffee, as we can do that anytime,” he continued. “I told them to be generous and to maximize the impact.”

With a wave of positive feedback coming from their first campaign You Deserve a Break Today, the Buckleys hope to reintroduce it to their four locations during the last week of June, just in time for the end of school.

“We hope this will be a watershed moment – this is the last week of school, a time when more people will be vaccinated, and this time we will include both weekends, which will make it a nine day event. so that more people can have the experience, ”said Peter.

Buckley would like to see other companies inspired.

“We would like to build it and see if other people can hang on, be a catalyst for something bigger,” he said. “A little McFlurry made a difference in someone’s life, it really resonated. Sometimes when things are dark, a small gesture can go a long way. “

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