Working at McDonald’s was supposed to be a temporary gig, just something to tide Melissa Knight over until she found her path in life.
She was 17 years old and had never worked before, with most of her spare time occupied by the theatre program at her high school.
But Knight’s uncle Willy Quan had just opened a new McDonald’s location in Coquitlam — one of his many stores — and needed some extra hands.
So Knight signed up and began by working the front counter at the McDonald’s in Coquitlam Centre.
“But after my first day, I fell in love with it, I was hooked,” Knight said.
“It is all about the people — which I loved — and how we were focused on making people happier.
“(And) I just loved the fast pace.”
Fifteen years later, Knight is still going strong and last week (Sept. 2), the 32-year-old received a 2015 Outstanding Manager of the Year Award from McDonald’s Canada.
Knight said she was honoured and excited to earn the award.
“I’ve seen so many managers that I admire win this award during my time with McDonald’s, so to be put in the same category as them is very humbling,” she said.
“I love this company … so to be recognized as someone who represents what they stand for is really an honour.”
After getting her start at her uncle’s franchise, Knight came to the Walnut Grove location in 2001 after her father Ron bought the Pioneer Plaza store.
“We were trained to make people’s days better and to me, that was such an interesting concept and that was exactly what I liked in life,” she said about what has kept her going.
And she has worked her way up to the manager position.
Working for a parent can be a challenge in some situations but Knight loves the relationship they have.
“I think we are probably more honest with each other than the average manager and owner, but I think that ends up being a positive thing,” she said.
Working in the restaurant business is a family affair for the Knights.
One of her brothers, Brad, is the manager at the new Gateway location while her sister Jessica Kegler is the first assistant manager.
Another brother, James, works part-time.
As for her long-term plans, Knight isn’t sure where she will end up.
Part of her would love to own her own franchise one day, but she also wouldn’t mind working in the McDonald’s Canada head office, training others.
“My passion has always been people. I like the positions where I can work with people,” she explained.
“Melissa has an enthusiasm for her people, guests and McDonald’s as a whole that is truly infectious,” Ron Knight said.