Back to School with McDonald’s Hamburger University

McDonald’s Hamburger University
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It’s not the special sauce on the Big Mac or even the legendary french fries. McDonald’s is McDonald’s because of Hamburger University.

The school turned 50 this year and has 275,000 alumni, most working as store managers, franchise owners, and executives in McDonald’s headquarters. There’s no tuition, no SAT scores, and with 36,000 people vying each year for franchises, Hamburger University claims to be more selective than Harvard, with an acceptance rate of less than 1% compared to the Ivy League school’s 7%.

Most students at Hamburger U train at the picturesque Illinois campus near McDonald’s headquarters. They are a combination of current employees selected for their store management potential, mid-managers looking to move up, and potential franchise owners who have a minimum of $500,000 of non-borrowed personal resources and have demonstrated a kinship with the McDonald’s ethos, usually through a low-man stint as a floor mopper and french fry maker.

There’s some prep work before students arrive on campus, 5 days in residence spent in auditoriums and interactive classrooms, kitchen labs, and service training labs. Graduates also participate in follow-up course-work with one of the 22 training teams around the country. The average restaurant manager completes the equivalent of a semester of college–21 credit hours–that some colleges and universities will accept as transfer credits.

Like 60 per cent of the senior management of McDonald’s Corporation, CEO Jim Skinner began his career as a restaurant crew member. A Hamburger University grad, in 1971 Skinner was a McDonald’s manager trainee with a high school diploma. As CEO of the company (with annual personal compensation of around $18 million), he’s overseen the global expansion of Hamburger University, which has opened 6 additional campuses: in São Paolo Brazil; London, England; Munich, Germany; Tokyo, Japan; Sydney, Australia; and the newest Hamburger University in  Shanghai, China.

McDonald’s is the world’s leading global food service retailer with more than 32,000 locations serving approximately 64 million customers in 117 countries each day. Bloomberg Businessweek looks at the company’s plans to leverage the leadership skills of Shanghai’s Hamburger University graduates to fuel its big expansion plans in China.



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2 Responses to Back to School with McDonald’s Hamburger University

  1. Pingback: OMDE 608 Group Assignment | Gail Wingate

  2. Aaron Stinchcombe says:

    My grade nine students would love a field trip to your university.

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