Changing the McDonald’s Experience

By Jamie Gillhespy

Rhiannon Johnson is changing the way many customers at McDonald’s in Gulf Breeze experience fast food. As a Lobby Attendant, Johnson’s job is to keep the lobby clean, but she does so much more. She brings food out to customers, refills their condiments, and clears boxes and trays when customers are finished, making this McDonald’s feel more like an upscale restaurant.

Johnson has exceeded the expectations of customers and employers alike ever since she was hired earlier this year. As her job coach, Heather Waltz, explains, “Before she even started, she was watching videos online and doing her own research.” And this research has continued to the present day. “Every time I go there,” Waltz says, “she tries out new things. She constantly wants to learn new things. She’s constantly wanting to learn more and more.”

Learning how things work has been one of Johnson’s favorite parts of her job. She loves this job, she explains, because “I get to do new things, and I get to interact with different people from different communities and within our community.”

Johnson has a developmental disability and receives services through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Even McDonald’s corporate has taken notice of Johnson’s contributions. Earlier this year, she received a rare letter of praise from Andrea Wallace, Director of Operations for McDonald’s, in which Wallace commends Johnson’s “outstanding attitude, extra effort, and ability to satisfy customers.”

This success did not come easily, however. Before landing this job, Waltz explains, Johnson had a difficult time finding employment in the community. In fact, by the time Waltz started working with Johnson, several job opportunities had already fallen through. But McDonald’s was different, Waltz said, in that they “took the time to get to know her and meet her and see her personality. She’s a people person. She’s always social to everyone.”

Johnson loves her job and the freedom it has given her. She is proud, she explains, of “my work and my job and my spending money and managing money.” Her job allows her to not only buy all her own groceries and other necessities but also the occasional splurge on video games and other goodies. And she hopes that this financial freedom will allow her to save up enough money to one day buy a car.

To other people looking for a job, Johnson has a few words of advice. Job seekers should “interview and tell [employers] what they like about the job when they first start out. And write down stuff they want to do and stuff they don’t want to do.” And, she adds, “Never give up on your dreams.”

Rhiannon Johnson loves helping customers at McDonald's in Gulf Breeze.