Community Building, With a Side of Fries

Alyssa Moten ’08

A head-and-shoulders portrait of Alyssa Moten ’08.

Like many young entrepreneurs who run their own businesses, Alyssa Moten ’08 thrives on the unpredictability of her days: She manages everything from hiring and pricing, to ordering equipment and handling building issues, to acting as a cheerleader for an employee who might be having a rough day. But Alyssa’s business isn’t a startup in Silicon Valley—it’s McDonald’s, the 62-year-old burger chain, and she operates three restaurants in Greater Detroit.

“Being involved in marketing, finance, human resources, operations, community service—as a business owner, you wear so many hats,” she says.

For Alyssa, that work building teams, motivating, and boosting morale is a large part of the job—and it’s part of what makes running her restaurants feel like the right fit. “I was always interested in people and what makes them tick, go into certain careers, and strive,” says Alyssa, who majored in psychology at Wellesley. “I really just like connecting with people.”

For a few years after Wellesley, Alyssa worked in talent acquisition for Teach for America. But she wanted a deeper understanding of psychology in the workplace, so she enrolled in a master’s program in organizational psychology at Columbia University. She worked at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, where she handled professional development and change management. In 2013, she returned to Michigan, her home state, to pursue a McDonald’s operation.

“I realized I wanted a more multifaceted career,” Alyssa says. Now, it’s never the same day twice.

Though it wasn’t part of her original plan, McDonald’s wasn’t a totally unexpected jump: Alyssa’s parents have operated locations for 38 years, both in Michigan and Alaska. But despite her family’s background in the business, getting started didn’t come easily, and Alyssa worked from the ground up.

She trained for four years to learn all the aspects of the bustling business, from making burgers while working through the ranks of crew, to becoming shift manager, then general manager. Upon completion of her training, she was offered three restaurants immediately—which she says isn’t typical for next-generation operators, but she knew she wanted to own more than one.

Now, as a business owner, Alyssa spends a lot of time on analytics, parsing through numbers and trends to exceed targets and make new benchmarks. During her training, she helped to reduce customer complaints in one restaurant by 30 percent.

Still, it seems, much of her motivation comes from the people side. Whether it’s through food drives for local food banks, improving service for her customers, or providing tokens of appreciation for her employees, Alyssa is committed to the community.

“You see the golden arches and sometimes people think it’s just a large corporation selling burgers and fries,” Alyssa says, “But 50 percent or more of the restaurants are owned by small operators, and we are in our communities every day to support them.”

She helps working students through a McDonald’s program that offers educational support including tuition reimbursement and college course credit. She runs giveaways for prom dresses and tuxedos at prom season for crew members, and offers turkeys and pie at Thanksgiving.

“It means the world to me for people to know that their McDonald’s cares about them,” she says. “I’m always thinking about the culture and making sure it’s an enjoyable one. This keeps me up at night, but in a good way.”

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