Nolan Ruiz fell in love with the Golden Arches as a child when his uncle bought a McDonald’s franchise in central California.
“I spent a whole day playing in the PlayPlace,” he recalls. “The opportunity to be an owner-operator of McDonald’s was planted then. It was something I was excited about for the rest of my life.
It wasn’t quite a straight line between that PlayPlace and owning 19 restaurants across the country, but Ruiz, 39, is the largest McDonald’s franchisee in the St. Louis area. We sat down in the Brentwood store, his busiest store, to discuss his entrepreneurial journey and his relationship with the iconic brand.
To eliminate culinary questions first: his favorite sandwiches are the classic double cheeseburger and the Filet-O-Fish, with a slice of tomato. He is a daily consumer of McCafe coffee, black.
Ruiz’s parents – his father had been a schoolteacher with a house-building company next door, his mother a housewife – followed his uncle into the restaurant business by buying a McDonald’s in Sacramento. As a teenager, Ruiz served customers and cleaned tables, and he loved it.
After high school, a career in fast food seemed less appealing. He got a business degree and a law degree and worked for four years as a prosecutor in Sacramento, but he missed the family business.