A lifetime of experience did little to ease the anticipation of Rob Goodwin Wednesday as fire inspectors performed their final walkthroughs and contractors put the finishing touches on a modernized McDonald's that he hopes will double its business.
On Jan. 6, Goodwin's 28-year-old McDonald's restaurant on Ringgold Road in East Ridge -- one of nine he owns in the area -- featured seating for less than 50 people.
Now, less than 100 days later, it has been torn down and rebuilt with more than double the seating, double the drive-through lanes and a few special touches that he hopes will set it apart on a stretch of road bustling with fast food options. The expanded 110-seat restaurant opens today.
"I hope people show," said Goodwin, who started working at the East Ridge McDonald's as teenager in the 1970s when it was down the street. "This is my community. I went to East Ridge Elementary, East Ridge Junior High and East Ridge High School. I was born and raised in this town. This community is very near to my heart."
He said the restaurant qualifies as one of the most costly ventures of his ownership career. The new restaurant will be the largest McDonald's in the area.
It will employ about 100 crew members and 15 managers, many of them hired over the last few weeks by Karmesha Sligh, the human resources manager for several McDonald's restaurants in the area. Sligh stayed busy at the East Ridge location Wednesday helping put the finishing touches on the store.
"I'm just looking forward to opening and seeing how everything goes and really to see the customers' reaction to what they think of the brand new store," she said. "The design and layout is different than any McDonald's in the area."
Among the unique additions is a mural on the wall next to fountain drink machines that depicts Ruby Falls, Rock City, the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and the Tennessee Aquarium.
For the kids, the indoor playground features touch screen video games. And those looking to take advantage of the free wireless Internet will be able to charge their devices at the power outlets located beneath the tables along the walls.
Behind the counter, one difference is a unique "beverage hallway" where one employee could feasibly handle all the specialty drink orders. The hallway runs along the drive-through side of the building and features an unprecedented third window where customers with complicated orders will be asked to receive their food so customers behind them can grab their food without a delay.
The first 100 patrons to visit the new restaurant after its midnight opening Wednesday night earned free Big Mac's for a year and the first 3,000 customers were given a reusable key chain card that entitles them to a free apple pie with any purchase.
Next up for Goodwin is a McDonald's in Henagar, Ala. But it won't be bigger than the one in his native East Ridge.
"This is definitely the biggest one in Chattanooga," Goodwin said before pausing. "For now. Who knows what next month will bring."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at email@example.com or 423-757-6731.