Bringing the Sizzle Back to McDonald’s

Donald Thompson worked his way up the fast-food giants ladder to become one of its highest-ranking executives

 In August 2006, Roberts resigned and Ralph Alvarez was promoted to COO of the global company. Thompson then became president of McDonald’s USA. Now he is leading the company into its fifth year of consecutive growth and is helping to move it into other areas such as specialty coffees (where it will compete with Starbucks). “He’s a great competitor. That’s one of the items that I’ve always admired about Don,” says Alvarez. “He’s always looking and calling those that are having success and figuring out what’s going on and how to spread that throughout the organization. I think that’s one of the most important things that a leader could do, especially in a company like ours where we have the same business in 14,000 different locations.”

Skinner concurs: “He’s a very people-oriented young man who is very aggressive about relationships regarding the development of people, which I think he learned a lot from his own development in the system. I think his abilities to communicate and lead are probably his strongest assets when it comes to the alignment of his team and the organization. Of course, he’s been very successful and he’s in a very key job right now as president of McDonald’s U.S., which is the big dog in the pound.”

Just as Mines mentored Thompson, Thompson in turn is helping usher in new black managers at McDonald’s. “Don’s a good example of an African American who has worked his way through the ranks,” says Mines, “who hasn’t forgotten where he came from and the importance of mentoring those behind him.”

Donald Thompson
Title: President, McDonald’s USA
Born: 1963
Education: Purdue University, bachelor’s in electrical engineering
Residence: Burr Ridge, IL
Family: Thompson and his wife, Elizabeth, have two children
Hidden Talents: Cooking, particularly Southern cuisine
Breaking Ground: Thompson is the first African American to hold the position of President, McDonald’s USA and Chief Operations Officer, McDonald’s USA
Personal Quote: “We have a rich heritage as African Americans. Don’t get into the pity party of what’s not going to be done for you, because there are so many things you can do for yourself. Others will see what you do and will look to support and help you.”

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