John Liapes knew when his Zionsville McDonald’s restaurant closed several weeks for renovations that there would be one group of customers affected more than others.
A group of several retirees visit the McDonald’s, which was shut down for seven weeks, at 50 Brendon Way each morning and share stories and laughs over coffee. Liapes didn’t want to displace them during the renovations.
So, he came up with an innovative solution.
“I was going to put a tent out here (in the parking lot), but the contractors said a tent wouldn’t work because there was so much dust and noise,” Liapes said. “So, I thought, ‘Town hall is beautiful,’ and went across the street to talk to the folks there about using a conference room a few hours a day for a group of folks that like to meet while the restaurant was under construction.”
Town officials agreed. They allowed Liapes use the town’s conference room for a few hours each morning at no cost. Liapes provided coffee and pastries for his loyal customers. The McDonald’s drive-thru remained open during construction.
“They were all very appreciative we took the time to think about them,” Liapes said. “What we try to do here is think about what’s best for the customer, and if you think that way, you’re blessed with folks who are very loyal because they know you care. I think this (McDonald’s) was like a church to them in many ways.”
The retirees appreciated that Liapes went the extra mile to accomodate their tight-knit group.
“Some of this has been going on one way or another for 25 to 30 years,” retiree Gary Mann said. “I’ve been doing it (at McDonald’s) for seven or eight years. It gives you an excuse to get up and get out of bed and go some place. I used to go to work, but now I’m retired, so I get up and go to this. It gives you a reason to get going in the morning.
“(Liapes) is the most caring manager we’ve ever had at this McDonald’s. He cares for his people.”
Retiree Bob Walker echoed Mann’s gratitude for the Town Hall gatherings.
“(Liapes) didn’t have to do that. It was very nice of him,” Walker said. “I felt like a member of the board over there at that big, round table.”
The McDonald’s dining room reopened July 18. A grand reopening event is scheduled for Aug. 10.
“Not replacing people”
Although the McDonald’s renovations includes some modern automation ordering methods, owner John Liapes said the restaurant is replacing people with technology.
“There are kiosks to self-order, and the other big element is table service,” he said. “We are pumping up the level of service and attention to service, and technology helps with that. We are still looking to hire good people. We are not replacing people with technology and never will in our business. We just really wanted to have a great trained staff.”
Liapes owns four McDonald’s with his wife, Mary. The restaurants are in Zionsville, Whitestown, Carmel (near 116th Street and Springmill Road) and Indianapolis at 96th and Meridian streets).