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How a Truro businesswoman rose to the top at McDonald’s

Stephanie Jones often helps out on the kitchen floor in her restaurants, prepping burgers and fries for customers.
Stephanie Jones often helps out on the kitchen floor in her restaurants, prepping burgers and fries for customers. - Fram Dinshaw

Stephanie Jones has built an impressive restaurant empire spanning both her hometown and Nova Scotia

TRURO, N.S. —

Stephanie Jones couldn’t even see over the counter when she began her first shift at McDonald’s more than three decades ago.

Just 11, Jones was hired at her father’s restaurant in New Glasgow. She mopped floors, cleaned tables and was shown the ropes by older crew members. It was here she learned an important lesson about the value of a job.

Now 44, Jones has just opened her ninth McDonald’s restaurant, this one in Valley. She's the only female owner-operator of the global fast-food chain's operations in Nova Scotia.

“Being able to open up a restaurant like this is a real honour,” said Jones. “I don’t know if I see myself as a trailblazer, maybe I am in a way … I am the largest female owner-operator in Canada right now.”

On the kitchen floor, Jones enjoys working shoulder to shoulder with her staff, some of whom are surprised to see her prepping Big Macs and fries.

“I find that she tends to use a lot of words of encouragement...” said Jacqueline Davey, crew member at Jones’s Valley McDonald’s. “She is always friendly and I think that encourages people to just do a better job.”

Manager Brandon Smith said working for Jones helped him become more confident and outgoing in his two years on the job, having once been rather shy.

“This place has definitely improved myself,” said Smith.

He then hurried back to rejoin his crew and Jones on the burger station.

For Jones herself, it’s all in a day’s work, alongside the paperwork and business meetings that often add up to an 11-hour shifts.

The new McDonald’s at 624 Pictou Road features digital drive-through menus and employee training conducted on the kitchen floor using iPads. This allows new staff to learn on the job, rather than behind computer screens.

Jones owns eight more McDonald’s outlets in the Truro area, Elmsdale, Fall River and Dartmouth.

She credits values learned from her father for her present-day success.

“I don’t think he ever took it easy on me,” said Jones, who reported to on-site managers instead of her father. 

She carried on working as a McDonald’s crew member until she went to university and teaching college. With her degree, Jones taught elementary school and also specialized in working with children on the autism spectrum.

However, she felt the restaurant industry calling her back after seven years of teaching.

Jones said her true passion is working with people and helping them succeed, which she wants to convey to her employees.

She recalled one person starting as a crew member, maintaining the ovens and other kitchen equipment, slowly growing his leadership skills until he became a manager. He now runs one of Jones’s other restaurants, the McDonald’s at the Truro Walmart near Hwy 102.

“It’s great to be able to be a part of someone’s success. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.” 

Today, she has about 500 employees working for her at her nine restaurants, including full- and part-time staff.

Her drive and networking skills have helped Jones establish herself as one of Truro’s most prominent businesspeople, helped by supportive local organizations such as the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce.

It is through groups like these Jones has been able to establish friendly ties with other local businesspeople – especially women – who are still under-represented at the top tables of many companies.

For those who do make it to a CEO’s boardroom meeting, many women find they are talked over or ignored by male colleagues. Jones maintains they are simply not used to female colleagues having a say.

“Your voice tends to be overlooked – that’s why it helps to have female colleagues at the table,” said Jones. “It’s really important to find some colleagues, because it can be lonely as a business owner.”

Jone's ninth restaurant location officially opens this Saturday

Stephanie Jones’s new McDonald’s in Valley, Colchester County, opened for business June 21, but the official ceremony is coming up this Saturday morning, July 13.

The new restaurant at 624 Pictou Road forms part of a complex about 500 metres from the Hwy 104 junction, that includes a gas station and convenience store.

“Valley has been really under-serviced in terms of restaurants and gas stations and hopefully this will be the start of more development,” said Jones.

Construction of the new commercial complex began last year, but its opening date was delayed owing to severe winter weather.

Customers and guests will enjoy a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11:15 a.m. Saturday and special menu offers, raffle prizes and family activities over the entire weekend.

Jones will also present a cheque to the Canadian Mental Health Association, which will soon open a new local headquarters in downtown Truro.

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