WINTERSVILLE - With a final check of systems and a quick huddle on handling the first day crowds, the new Main Street McDonald's, in front of the Riesbeck's Plaza, opened shortly before 4 a.m. Thursday.
Owner-operators Rich and Diane Doane hosted a VIP and employee reception Wednesday evening in the restaurant.
Doane said it's a major improvement over his former Wintersville store, just a few hundred yards up Main Street.
The new 81-seat McDonald's features state-of-the-art equipment and a side-by-side order station in the drive-through lane to allow two cars to place orders at the same time, shortening the time in line.
Doane owns and operates a total of eight McDonalds, including the Main Street location, Sunset Boulevard in Steubenville, Franklin Street in Toronto, Wellsville, the Pointe at North Fayette in Robinson Township, the Robinson Mall location and one in the Robinson Wal-Mart.
"It took 80 days from the beginning of construction to the opening," he said.
Crews trained on new cash registers and other equipment in the Sunset Boulevard store, he said, and all the crew from the former Wintersville location made the transition to the new store.
Manager Andrea Snider was among the 11 members of the management staff leading visitors on a tour of the kitchen. She noted crew members have a better break area (though it was temporarily filled with extra racks of buns to cover the anticipated first-day crowd), and the latest equipment to use. Snider noted the line in the old restaurant had a 90-degree bend in the flow of product during preparation. The new store is fully linear, which will grant better efficiency. She noted no matter how hard her crews worked, the speed of service at the old store was limited by the design. For instance, she said, to get food to the customers at the drive-through required moving down a long hallway. Now, the windows are right off the main floor.
"And I have an office, for the first time," she said, pointing to a small space off the back of the line. She's been a McDonald's manager for 28 years, including 16 years at the Wintersville store.
There were about 200 people lined up in the light drizzle waiting for the doors to open at 4 a.m. today. With a quick, football-coach-during-pregame, "Are we ready," from Doane, the doors were unlocked and the customers began streaming into the restaurant, which offers 24-hour service.
Don Herbst of Steubenville was the first customer in line, a kind of hobby of his.
"I was the first in line at the Weirton McDonald's, the one on Sunset, and a lot of other restaurants all over Steubenville and Weirton," said the retiree of Weirton Steel.
The first 100 customers were handed a coupon for a free Big Mac a week for a year by Alyssa Doane, daughter of the owner-operators.
Those coupons were gone in less than five minutes.
Doane said the new restaurant represents a multimillion-dollar investment. His wife chose the textures and colors in the new store, which reflects McDonald's shift to a more upscale dining environment, with wood and metal chairs, earth-tone walls and floors and upscale lighting fixtures, as well as flat-screen televisions on the walls, more reminiscent of a coffeehouse atmosphere than the old yellow plastic of McDonald's of yore. There's also an outdoor patio area.
The 4,200-square-foot restaurant replaces one that was on leased ground. McDonald's bought the site on which the new store sits.
"It will be here forever," he said.
The Wintersville McDonald's was out of service for just five days, closing Friday at midnight to make the transition to the new store. Doane praised the construction crews and officials of the village, noting the construction time was just 80 days from the first turn of earth until the opening.
"It's also a tribute to our employees," he said.
He is an example of what the company often touts when discussing jobs at McDonald's. Doane began his career on the grill in a McDonald's in 1978, and worked his way through the ranks to become an owner-operator.
"Forty percent of the operators start out as crewpeople," he said.
The former McDonald's location had opened in 1977.
(Giannamore can be contacted at email@example.com.)