Ex McDonald’s cleaner on 93p-an-hour now owns 20 restaurants

Doug Wright Credit: BPM

A man from Birmingham who started working for 93p-an-hour as a cleaner at McDonald’s now owns 20 restaurants and employs more than 2,000 staff.

Doug Wright, from Sutton Coldfield, started working for the fast-food chain the day before he left school aged 16.

His life changed dramatically when he was nearly paralysed following a car accident aged just 20.

Now Doug is celebrating 40 years working at the Golden Arches where he was made Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands in 2019.

He runs branches across the Midlands, from Bassetts Pole, Kitts Green, Stechford and Sutton, to Lichfield, Burntwood, nine in the Black Country and to the east in Solihull and Olton.

Doug Wright started working for the business the day before he left school aged 16. Credit: BPM

This is Doug Wright's story.

“I got my first job at McDonald’s on July 1, 1981. It was the day before I left school and I was 16.“I joined McDonald’s in Bedford, where I lived at the time, as a cleaner. Back then it was a hamburger restaurant that was hardly ever heard of.“I was part-time on 93p an hour. At 16 the first thing it taught me was basic life skills. Discipline and team work.“After eight weeks I was made part-time general assistant. Then full-time two weeks later.“I was assistant for a year. The first real promotion I had was to start training other staff."

He continued: “But six months later I had a car crash and ended up breaking my neck and being told I would never walk again. I suffered a crushed-vertebrae but I didn’t sever the spinal cord.“I was airlifted to Stoke Mandeville spinal centre in Buckinghamshire. I was there for the best part of a year.“I was partially paralysed for four months but recovered.”“McDonald’s created an administrative role for me at its regional headquarters in Sutton Coldfield. I had various jobs in separate departments. For the last five years I was there I was finding sites for restaurants.“In the 90s McDonald’s was about increasing its market share and opening more outlets. It really accelerated then.“I worked there from 1988 to 2002.“It was always my dream to own my own business,” he said. “And McDonald’s offered me an opportunity. I was able to own and operate my restaurant. It was a name and brand I both loved and understood.He took on his first franchise in Lichfield in October 2002 and added: “When I bought my first restaurant it felt like my dream had come true.”But Doug was not happy to stop at one restaurant – he wanted his own empire.

Doug Wright. Credit: BPM

He said: “Basically I wanted to create a big restaurant company and McDonald’s gave me that opportunity to build up a business and work with me to facilitate that.”Doug learned the ropes of owning a restaurant with his Lichfield site and then gradually expanded.He said: “For the first few years I was learning to run and operate the business.“I bought a second one at Bassett’s Pole in 2006, one in 2008, one in 2009 and another in 2010.“The expansion really started in 2010. I have bought 15 restaurants since, the last one I opened was in Walsall in February 2019.”Doug now owns the Sutton Coldfield restaurant, next to the regional headquarters where he worked for 14 years after his accident.

He was part of the chain’s aggressive expansion plan and move to franchises, which has increased the number of franchised branches from 30 per cent to 85 per cent in the UK.He said: “The idea was to put restaurants into the hands of local people who owned and operated them and generally he or she would do a better job.“I’m very lucky all my restaurants are between 30 and 40 minutes from home.”Doug said: “I still want to achieve a lot more.“As a cricket analogy, I’m 40 not out and want to get to 50 not out."He said: “I’m thrilled to have reached the milestone of 40 years with McDonald’s. It has afforded me so many opportunities, for which I’m incredibly grateful."