“Congratulations, Miss Beverly!”
It’s a phrase that has been heard often this week at the McDonald’s on the corner of Shipyard Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road. That’s because the location’s longtime general manager, Beverly Robbins, recently won the Ray Kroc Award, the highest honor given to McDonald’s management. She is one of just 340 employees worldwide who was given the award.
“It was a surprise,” said the humble, soft-spoken Robbins, a 40-plus year employee of the company. “It’s kind of overwhelming.”
Though the franchise group that owns the Shipyard location and 16 others in the area, McAnderson’s Inc., learned Robbins won the award last Friday, Robbins herself was not told until Tuesday afternoon, when she was greeted with a surprise party as she walked into the building she’s been overseeing for the last 30 years.
Granted, it isn’t the same exact one she started at then. The Shipyard location underwent a complete renovation in 2013, one of many changes Robbins has experienced since she began working for the golden arches in the early 1970s.
In 1973, Robbins started as a crew member at the location on Market Street near Kerr Avenue. She got the job after the company she worked for previously as a phone operator moved away.
“I didn’t want to leave, so I took the job while I figured out what I wanted to do next,” said Robbins, a Wilmington native who graduated from New Hanover High School. “I started working there and liking it and moving up.”
Like many managers, Robbins started on the front lines as a cashier.
“That was back when we had to write our own orders down,” said Robbins. “Now everything’s on a touch screen with pictures.”
After a few years at that location, she transferred to one on Oleander Drive that no longer exists. It was there that she got her training as a manager, during a time when there were very few women and very few minorities in upper-level positions.
“One day I looked around and thought, ‘Oh, I’m the only one here!” said Robbins. “But everyone was very nice. No one gave me any problems.”
As part of her training, Robbins took her first-ever airplane trip to Chicago, where she spent two weeks at Hamburger University outside the city limits in Oak Brook. After a nerve-wracking ride (“I didn’t want to get on a plane again”), Robbins had to face another challenge – meeting and speaking to brand new people.
“I had to get used to talking to lots of people,” said Robbins. “I’m kind of a quiet person.”
Interacting with people is no longer a problem for Robbins, whose people skills helped get her nominated for the top award.
“The manager of the year award is based on store numbers, worker dedication and people skills – how well she works with the crew and others,” said Karla Taylor, a spokeswoman for McAnderson’s Inc., who explained that Ray Kroc Award winners are first nominated for manager of the year before they are eligible for the top prize. “She has an incredible crew that loves her and a loyal customer base.”
Though Robbins previously spent most of her time behind the counter, she said she now spends a lot of time out in the dining room talking with customers, the same ones who have been congratulating her all week.
“I know a lot of them, we have a lot of regulars,” said Robbins. “Some of them have been coming here for years and years.”
Robbins’ longevity with the company is a testament to her dedication and hard work. Though she’s the second-longest tenured employee with the operating group (an area supervisor started a few months before she did), she has worked for McDonald’s since before the current owner/operator, Dennis Anderson, started acquiring Wilmington locations in 1974.
“You don’t realize how many lives she’s touched over the last 40 years,” said Taylor, who said some former employees, including one who is currently a Wilmington police officer, came to the surprise party on Tuesday. “She’s not a bragger, but she gets the job done and does it well.”
“A lot of things have changed – the equipment, the technology, all that,” said Robbins. “But it’s still the same dealing with people, liking people – that hasn’t changed.”
Robbins has spent the last 43 years working for McDonald’s but she says she’s not quite done yet.
“I think I’ve got a few years left,” Robbins said, before unintentionally summing up her feelings about her career by using the company tag line. “I’m loving it.”
In the meantime, Robbins will enjoy time with her 3-year-old black and white dog, Pookie (who she said “is basically like my child”), her two sisters and other friends and relatives.
“I think my sisters are more excited about this than me,” Robbins said, acknowledging that the award’s significance hasn’t really sunk in yet.
Robbins will receive her cash prize and trophy in April at the Ray Kroc Awards Gala in Orlando, Florida. It will be hosted by McDonald’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Easterbrook, and Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer David Fairhurst.
Robbins and Taylor plan to get dressed up and go all out for the special event. Based on previous experiences traveling for work, however, Robbins is still unsure of how she’ll get down there.
“I think we’re gonna drive,” she said.