Carmel McDonald’s general manager receives elite award


Mai Cheng, McDonald’s general manager at The Bridges in Carmel, was surprised when she learned she received the Ray Kroc Award.

“I saw some people on LinkedIn had won and I thought I didn’t make it this year,” Cheng said. “We did some good things, but I didn’t think we were high enough with the lobby partially closed.”

The award, named for the McDonald’s founder, is presented to 150 McDonald’s general managers each year from the 15,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States. McDonald’s franchise owner John Liapes set up a surprise announcement for Cheng Nov. 1 at the restaurant.

“They recognize just slightly less than 1 percent of all the general managers in the country,” Liapes said. “It’s a huge honor for our organization. In our world, it’s like getting an Academy Award. She is a tremendous lady. She works super hard.”

Liapes said the criteria is based on how the restaurant is operated, staff development, community service, cleanliness and sales.

“Her staff just loves her,” Liapes said. “They would walk on fire for her when things are tough, or staffing is short. She is just that kind of leader. Her sales have been off the charts and her drive-thru times are some of the fastest in the United States. When the pandemic hit, Mai said, ‘Why don’t we reach out to big box stores like Meijer and see if we can bring food to them?’

“During the lockdown, people weren’t going anywhere. We hand-delivered the meals.”

Cheng, a Noblesville resident, received a $5,000 bonus from Liapes and a $2,500 bonus from corporate. She also received an expenses-paid trip for herself and a guest to Orlando for the April 2022 McDonald’s convention, where she will be recognized.

Cheng has worked for McDonald’s for 18 years, including the last four years for Liapes’ franchise. Cheng had previously worked for the corporate-owned McDonald’s at 9536 Meridian St. When Liapes bought that restaurant, Cheng stayed on with his group.

Liapes and his wife, Mary, who live in Carmel, own eight McDonald’s franchises in central Indiana, including in Zionsville and Whitestown.