More than 1.5 million people work for McDonald's 31,000 restaurants in 119 countries. The multi-billion dollar company serves 47 million customers daily across the globe.
About 33 years ago, Rob Goodwin started flipping burgers for $2.35 an hour at the East Ridge McDonald's.
Today, he runs that $2.5 million a year business.
"I don't enjoy that fast food has such a negative perception, that it's a last-resort dead-end job, because that could not be farther from the truth," he said.
Goodwin owns and operates seven McDonald's in the Chattanooga area and said he's a great example of the rewards that dedication to the multibillion dollar company brings. Between 30 percent and 40 percent of franchise owner/operators and about 60 percent of top-level executives started out as crew people, just like he did, he said.
But the career path wasn't easy, he said. Back then, Goodwin had to work more than nine years as a crew person and shift manager before managing an entire store. He then worked at the corporate level for more than a decade before owning a restaurant.
"If you're not going to work really hard and put in the sweat equity, you're not going to make it," he said. "You've got to be persistent."
That kind of persistence has also paid off for Goodwin's staff, and at a much quicker rate.
After starting as a crew worker in an Alabama McDonald's in 2008, Tracey Moore is earning about $40,000 a year managing 82 employees at that East Ridge McDonald's - what she said is the highest-earning of Goodwin's stores.
"It's all about how bad you want it, how you apply yourself," she said. "Just get in there and do what it takes."
And she seems to want it pretty bad. After taking her East Ridge job about a year ago, the mother of one has spent 2 1/2 hours driving between work and her Alabama residence each day, not wanting to pull her 9-year-old son Jody from his friends at school.
Moore's ultimate goal is to travel the area as a training consultant, helping stores improve. But with only a year and a half of manager experience under her belt, she said she's happy to stay where she is for a little while.
Staying at one position for so long is a change for a woman who's held three positions within the company in as many years. After just nine months as a crew person, she began taking college-accredited business courses to become a shift manager, with McDonald's picking up the tab.
Moore spent some time at that job and did a weeklong stint in the company's manger training program "Hamburger University," becoming store manager.
Before starting work at McDonald's with a career in mind, Moore had worked as a crew person when she was 16 and quickly took on staff training responsibilities.
She said in high school the job was just part time and she never thought of making a career at the company, but after jumping from odd job to odd job later in life, she remembered her quick advancement at the fast food restaurant and decided to give it another shake.
"It was extremely fast and a great opportunity for me," she said. "It's just based on the person. How fast you get it and how bad you want it, and how valuable you are."
Moore hopes her son will learn from the mistakes she's made in life and her success at work. She knows he and his friends are at least happy she works where she does - after they compete in school sports she'll take them to the restaurant for ice cream.
"He's very proud of his mom," she said.
At first, Goodwin's daughter Ashley didn't feel that same pride in her father's career.
"I thought it was awful. I hated it," she said. "It embarrassed me."
But once she left high school for college, she started to look at the family business differently.
"It just hit me that this could be a career," she said. "I absolutely love it and wouldn't change anything."
Rather than throw her right into management, Rob Goodwin wants his daughter to learn the company from the bottom up, just as he did. Ashley Goodwin has worked most every crew position including flipping burgers, running a cash register and taking orders at the drive through.
She's taken business management classes and is headed to Hamburger University for management training by the end of the year.
One day she hopes to take over her father's restaurants - he calls her his retirement plan - and Ashley Goodwin said she's thankful to her parents for setting her on her career path.
"Without them pushing me, especially my father, I wouldn't have thought of this," she said. "I thank them so much now."
Contact Carey O'Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6525.