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'She is just an amazing human being!': McDonald's employee gets the spotlight for friendliness and kindness

“You always got to greet them with a ‘good morning,’ so that they can begin their day in a good way,” Rita Roles said.

Longtime McDonald's Employee Recognized
Rita Roles, a longtime McDonald's employee in Rochester, is recognized Monday, May 23, 2022, by Owner/Operator Rick Lommen, left, of Courtesy Corporation, as part of the McDonald's national "Thank You Crew" initiative. Roles has worked for McDonald's for more than three decades, more than two of which at the Bandel Road Northwest location in Rochester. At Roles' right is Oumboom See, the Bandel Road McDonald's restaurant manager.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Eight years ago, Sara Keller and her children started making trips to the McDonald's on Bandel Road in north Rochester a family tradition.

It wasn't just the hamburgers and fries, milkshakes and coffee that earned their loyalty, but how one of the store’s employees, Rita Roles, made a connection with her children.

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It was the little courtesies that make the world go round but at times can seem missing in today’s world.

The 69-year-old Dodge Center woman, who works as the store’s breakfast manager, regularly asked about Keller’s family and her kids. What’s more, she remembered her children and what they enjoyed. When she learned one of her sons loved animals, she bought him a box of animal cards that her own son had collected as a child.

Her manner wasn’t contrived or rehearsed or come across as if she was following the principles of the customer service manual. Like her smile, Roles was genuine. The attention and affection she showed toward her children made an impact. They called the store “Rita’s McDonald's.”

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“She’s really special and for real,” Keller said. “If there were more people like her, it would be really, really wonderful.”

So just as Roles went beyond the call of duty as a McDonald’s breakfast manager, Keller decided to do the same as a customer. Keller went to a McDonald’s website, which is wrapping up a six-weekend national “Thank You Crew” initiative, and typed some comments of appreciation.

The comments reached McDonald’s headquarters and ultimately worked their way down to the store level. And that’s what led to Roles standing in front of a bank of television cameras and alongside the store’s owner, manager and other McDonald's bigwigs Monday morning.

It was meant to be a surprise and it left Roles, a McDonald’s employee for 32 years, the last 25 for the McDonald’s store on Bandel Road, trying to explain to the dining room full of strangers what it was about her job that she liked so much.

Clearly caught off guard, Roles, holding gifts of flowers and chocolate, made this simple observation: Never underestimate how a simple greeting can set the tone for a co-worker or customer’s day

“You always got to greet them with a ‘good morning,’ so that they can begin their day in a good way,” she said.

Rick Lommen, owner and operator of the local Rochester McDonald's franchise market, said that when he bought the market two decades ago, the “restaurants weren’t all that great.” He credited Roles with playing a vital role in turning the Bandel store around.

“Rita is a positive leader, both with her co-workers and in the way she treats customers,” Lommen said. “She just does an outstanding job on many, many fronts. She’s one of our outstanding employees.”

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Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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