Patrons go out of their way for happy encounters with Daniel Marshall at McDonalds in Arden Hills
ARDEN HILLS, Minnesota – When people talk about a restaurant’s performance, they aren’t usually referring to the entertainment that goes through the loudspeaker in the steering wheel.
But lunchtime is show time at McDonald’s in Arden Hills.
“BA, DA, BA, DA, DA!” comes a voice from the speaker mimicking a familiar McDonald’s jingle.
Listening from the driver’s seat of his SUV, Mark Lozano bursts out laughing. âThis guy is awesome,â he says.
More chants will follow, then a polite salute.
âThank you very much for choosing Arden Hills McDonald’s,â the voice continues. “My name is Daniel. How are you today?”
Daniel Marshall, 22, won’t just sing your command, if he doesn’t know your name, he’ll give you one.
“What’s up Superstar?” he asks a customer.
Daniel hands out nicknames like quarter pounders with cheese.
âHe really puts a smile on my face,â says Emily Rabe, laughing from her driver’s seat. âWhen I have depression as a student, it really brightens my day.â
Daniel sees a convertible approaching his window. “Woohoo!” he said to the owner.
Making friends is as natural as ketchup goes with fries.
But that’s not how it always was for Daniel.
âI was different from a lot of people,â says Daniel.
The teasing started in elementary school, around the time Daniel was diagnosed with autism.
âI was called names, like, I was stupid, I was stupid, I was retarded,â he says.
Daniel’s mother, Cheryl Marshall, says the taunts continued after high school, administered by the manager of different burgers where Daniel worked.
Cheryl says the manager and others at the restaurant found Daniel’s positivity off-putting.
âEvery day they would say to him, ‘You just have to stop. Isn’t there another place you would like to work, âsays Daniel’s mother.
But something clicked when Daniel teamed up with his McDonald’s manager, Ashley Sicora.
âI understand how it works,â says Ashley. “My youngest son also has autism.”
In Liam – her 10 year old son – Ashley sees Daniel.
Liam will focus on things like space and the planets.
âCustomer service is Daniel’s,â says Ashley. “Everything he has, he puts everything in it.”
Daniel’s manager isn’t the only one to have noticed.
In the year since Daniel arrived at McDonald’s, customers have sent hundreds of messages congratulating the polite and enthusiastic young man who serves them.
âDaniel is exceptional,â we read.
âYou have found a gem,â said another.
The messages caught the attention of Arden Hills owner McDonald’s, former Minnesota Viking Tim Baylor.
âIt literally makes people’s day,â says Tim. “Daniel is what you want.”
In recognition of her good service, Ashley displayed Daniel’s name on the yellow sign under the golden arches in front of the restaurant.
“WE LOVE DANIEL !!!!” reads the sign, preceded by Daniel’s signature, “BA, DA, BA, DA, DA.”
Seeing him, a surprised Daniel experienced a rare moment of speechless joy, falling stunned back onto the sidewalk.
âNo one like Daniel,â says the restaurant owner with a smile. He then laughs and adds: “Anywhere”.
No more teasing. At McDonald’s, Daniel feels nothing but respect.
âIt’s home,â he says. âIt’s a whole new opportunity for me to be someone in the world.
As Daniel blossoms, his mother relishes the ride.
âVery proud mom,â says Cheryl Marshall.
Meanwhile, another mom looks at Daniel and thinks of her son.
âWhen you see someone like Daniel,â says Ashley Sicora, âit’s pretty reassuring that everything will be fine and that he will find his own way.â
Within hours of starting his shift, Daniel hasn’t slowed a beat. He sings, he greets, he laughs with one customer after another.
“BA, DA, BA, DA, DA!”
Daniel Marshall makes the performance of his life every day.