Ohio McDonald's franchise owner, a veteran, paid workers amid closure: 'I've been in their shoes'

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When McDonald’s franchise owner Tony Philiou had to close his location for renovations, his employees didn’t have to worry about whether they'd receive their next paycheck or not.

Philiou, an Ohio-based franchise owner, kept the payroll rolling for the 90 crew members who work at his Mayfield Heights location, which is stationed in the east-side suburb of Cleveland.

The restaurant closed its doors on March 28 — and did not reopen again until July 6. 

"It was not a hard decision for me," Philiou told Fox Business in a phone interview.

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"I’ve been in their shoes," he continued.

"I knew what it would be if they didn't have a check on a weekly basis."

Philiou, who is 90 years old now, immigrated to the U.S. from Greece as a child.

McDonald’s franchise owner Tony Philiou has been happily married to his wife, Effie, for 68 years. (Courtesy Tony Philiou and McDonald’s USA / Fox News)

He enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving as an infantryman during the Korean War.

He began his career at McDonald’s in 1962, at the very same Mayfield Heights location he owns today. 

Philiou’s starting role was as a part-time fry cook gig. 

“It’s been a great venture for me and [for] many people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from.”

He took the role on while he also worked full-time at the TRW Valve Division plant — an automotive and aerospace parts manufacturer in Cleveland. It has since been acquired.

The proud Army veteran stuck with the fast-food company for 15 years. He took ownership of the Mayfield Heights restaurant in 1977.

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"I started from the ground level up," Philiou said. "It’s been a great venture for me and [for] many people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from."

Tony Philiou started his career at McDonald’s in the 1960s as a part-time fry cook. (Courtesy Tony Philiou and McDonald’s USA / Fox News)

Philiou went on to own and operate a few McDonald’s franchise locations in the area; but after more than four decades, he’s put his focus on one.

He co-owns the Mayfield Heights location with his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and John Powers.

The location underwent remodeling in late March. The project consumed the better part of over three months.

“People feel very proud working in this beautiful store that we just finished.”

"We needed to get it up to par, both facility- and equipment-wise, and also [make it] a better place for the employees to be working," Philiou told Fox Business. 

"I'm very proud of the store right now. And people feel very proud working in this beautiful store that we just finished."

The Mayfield Heights McDonald’s is located at 6225 Mayfield Rd. in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Before it was remodeled, the location had a red gabled roof.  (Google Maps / Google Maps)

Philiou said he currently has about 94 employees who work various shifts part-time.

He’s hoping to grow the team to 105 people.

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"Our employees are extremely grateful," Philiou said. "As for the community here, which I’m blessed to be working with, they’ve been very supportive of us."

He continued, "They also appreciate what we have done to build a brand new store and what we have done as far as for the employees to be paid throughout the process."

The Mayfield Heights McDonald’s in Ohio reopened to the public on July 6, 2022, after an extended renovation project.  (Courtesy Tony Philiou and McDonald’s USA / Fox News)

While Philiou couldn’t reveal exactly how much he spent to keep the payroll running, he said the Mayfield Heights location will "need to sell a lot of cheeseburgers to make it up." 

But he’s confident they’ll achieve that with the community’s support.

"I’m blessed to be able to do this," Philiou said. 

"And I did it because what [my employees] have done in the past have made the store a success."

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Tiffanie Boyd, senior vice president and chief people officer at McDonald’s USA, told Fox Business that they’re proud to have Philiou on their team.

“It’s stories like his that have inspired us to celebrate even more crew who step up for our customers.”

"I’m so inspired by Tony’s commitment to his employees and all the meaningful ways he’s recognized them over the years — from encouraging team bonding with regular pizza parties, to bigger gestures like offering tuition assistance and paying employees during restaurant renovations," Boyd explained to Fox Business in an email.

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She continued, "It’s stories like his that have inspired us to celebrate even more crew who step up for our customers every day with our ‘Thank You Crew' initiative, where owners and operators nationwide are finding special ways to thank their crew and managers."

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