Happy Meals, Happy Memories: 2023 Fellows Discover Fan Truths at McDonald’s

On August 17-18, McDonald’s welcomed LCLD Fellows to their Chicago campus for a Learning Experience. The event kicked off with a welcome reception sponsored by Bryan Cave and Riley Safer, where guests were treated to refreshments as they took a moment to catch up with one another.

The morning of the 18th began with welcome remarks from LCLD Member Desiree Ralls-Morrison, McDonald’s Corporate EVP, Chief Legal Officer, and Secretary; 2022 Fellow Abiman Rajadurai, Senior Counsel, McOpCo General Counsel; and 2021 Fellow Tanya Miari, Senior Counsel. Desiree shared her journey through the ranks of the legal profession and how it continues to impact her leadership of McDonald’s DEI efforts.

Presentations then began with an exploration into how McDonald’s makes money, led by Claire Gertsmeier, Specialist, National Initiatives, US Finance; Claire Meyer, Supervisor, Economic Policy, US Finance; and Kevin Byrne, Manager, Economic Policy, US Finance. Attendees learned that the company’s financial model focuses not on profits from food sales, but rather on the income generated from leasing out storefront properties. As McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc famously said, “We’re not in the hamburger business. We’re in the real estate business.” 

The following two sessions were respectively led by Raven Moore, Corporate VP, Associate General Counsel, International, followed by Brad Bogan, US VP, Strategic Financing. Raven discussed McDonald’s global legal department with over 350 professionals worldwide, how her role has evolved since moving abroad, and differences in how the department operates internationally versus domestically. Brad focused on the company’s franchise model, how one becomes a franchisee, and the relationship between the franchisees and headquarters.

Just before lunch, Brian Fergemann, Senior Counsel, and Anna Engle, Director, Brand Content & Culture, US Marketing, shared insights on the company’s marketing strategies — in particular, the “fan truths” used in all aspects of the marketing process. After compiling stories from McDonald’s guests, the team extracted the McDonald’s experiences that anyone can relate to. Truths included, “Everyone has a McDonald’s order,” and “You’re never too old to enjoy a Happy Meal.” To wrap up, attendees played a game in which they watched commercial clips and paired each one with a “fan truth.” 

After lunch was a tour of the McDonald’s headquarters. At the first stop, Mike Bullington, Senior Manager, McDonald’s Archivist, led attendees to the Archives Room, where they learned more about McDonald’s history through the objects displayed there, from toys to trays to packaging. For their next stop, attendees landed at the Test Kitchen with Tracy Nguyen, Supervisor, Culinary, US Marketing, who presented the equipment used in new recipe creation and discussed the testing process, the relationship between the test kitchen and marketing department, and how ideas from both teams become a reality.

In the afternoon, the focus turned to the people of McDonald’s and how the company gives back and develops talent. First, Cleary J. Williams, RMHC and McDonald’s Alignment Supervisor, shared details about the Ronald McDonald House Charities and their impact helping families in need. After sharing a personal story of the program’s effects on her own life, Cleary invited attendees to write encouraging notes to families staying in Ronald McDonald houses across the country.

Next, Danielle Harris, Senior Director, Center HR for Global Corporate Functions, shifted the focus to the company’s talent development strategies and initiatives. More junior-level employees, she said, are encouraged to try working in different departments and to seek opportunities to widen their skillsets across functions. 

To close out the day, Tamanika Hardy, Director, DEI, and Kristen Jones, Director of Legal DEI, Senior Counsel, discussed McDonald’s outlook on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the strategies they use to improve DEI across the company. Hal Merck, Corporate VP, Litigation, offered closing remarks before inviting Fellows to the 8th-floor terrace for one last chance to network and recap the day’s events.

LCLD thanks all those whose efforts made this Learning Experience a success, especially: LCLD Member Desiree Ralls-Morrison, 2022 Fellow Abiman Rajadurai, 2021 Fellows Tanya Miari and Rita Srivastava, 2020 Fellow Serena Pruitt, 2019 Fellows Krystin Hernandez and Valerie Manos, 2019 Pathfinder Carrie Johnson, Sarah Weil, and Shereen Hare.

Here’s what attendees are saying about this event:

Busy legal executives took time out of their day to speak to us, but it was the marketing team who particularly struck me with their “Fan Truths” ad campaign strategy. As a trial lawyer who practices not only in the U.S. in front of juries but also international arbitration before panels of arbitrators, I think it is so important to have a central theme to your case that has universal appeal. Fan Truths… remind me of what good case themes should be – simple, emotional, and something everyone can relate to. I can’t wait to start thinking about opening statements or closing arguments with my Trial Truth in mind.

— 2023 Fellow Victoria Alvarez, Troutman Pepper LLP

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to to attend the LCLD Learning Experience at McDonalds Corporation. It was fascinating to learn about McDonald’s business from the inside and hear from their powerhouse leaders. This was a full-circle experience since my first job was working in McDonalds drive-thru (and I met my husband working there). I finally got to see Hamburger University!

— 2023 Fellow Chrissy Rittberg, Northwestern Mutual

Had an amazing time last week at the LCLD Learning Experience hosted by McDonalds at its Chicago headquarters! LCLD Fellows got to meet with McDonalds attorneys, business and marketing folks, product development teams and DE&I professionals to learn about how they manage a global business and legal department and promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the company. I was also able to reconnect with a group of talented attorneys from across the country.

— 2023 Fellow Spencer Stone, Sullivan & Worcester LLP