Central Queensland fast food king moves on after 45 years
HAVING worked with McDonalds for more than four decades, Gary St George is “horrified” to think how much of the fast food he has consumed.
Upon reflection, it’s been a good journey for Mr St George as he now settles into the life of retirement.
Over the years Mr St George has owned McDonalds in Rockhampton, Gracemere and Yeppoon, officially selling his last store in late June.
Mr St George first started with McDonalds in 1975 at Mermaid Beach, the 13th ever store to open in Australia.
“I walked in the door and thought it was a pretty schmick organisation,” he said.
He worked his way up and became a senior consultant and franchised the Queensland market in the late 1980s and went to on be the Queensland operations manager.
His first license was for a store in Sydney in 1986, before moving back to Queensland.
He bought the George St, Rockhampton store in 1989 and went on to build the Glenmore and Yeppoon stores, then in the 2000s, he built the Gracemere outlet.
Over the 45 years with McDonalds, Mr St George has owned five stores.
He chose to settle in Rockhampton as he liked the country.
“McDonalds were an extremely business and the regional towns have the highest volume restaurant,” he said.
Mr St George has been selling one store by one to Anton Gazal, first selling off the Yeppoon store and lastly, the George St operation on June 28.
He is now “living the good life” in retirement.
When asked what his plans are now that he is retired, Mr St George responded: “Dunno, never done it before.”
Reflecting on the years, Mr St George said when he first started there were 20 items on the menu with just burgers, fries and drinks and they used to sell friend chicken and fish and chips.
Back then, hamburgers had pineapple, beetroot and “the kitchen sink”.
“American burgers with meat, cheese and sauce were totally foreign,” he said.
Drive throughs didn’t exist either and were installed over the decades.
Mr St George was also instrumental in introducing breakfast menus to the Queensland stores.
When asked what his favourite item on the Maccas menu was, Mr St George didn’t hesitate to say the Big Mac, seconded by the bacon and egg McMuffin.
Nowadays there is something like 200 items on the menu.
“It’s become more digital, Australia has the most productive staff in the world by a long shot,” he said.
In his time, Mr St George estimates he has employed 5000 to 8000 staff.
He said there was more to working at McDonald’s than most people think.
“You learn team work, respect for your fellow team members, you’re responsible, any young person, they get their own money, a lot of them have bought cars, houses, met husbands and wives,” he said.