People - October 2005

Executive burnishes region's golden arches
By Joe Rauch

Bob Jackson stays on the move, whether in his job as senior vice president and general manager of one of McDonald’s largest operating regions or in his favorite sideline: running marathons. Jackson, 45, spends three to four nights a week traveling throughout the fast-food king’s Raleigh Region, which stretches from Kentucky to Georgia and from Tennessee east to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Cary resident oversees 665 restaurants — 71 owned by Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s, the rest by franchisees — with more than 32,000 employees. “I could be scouting real-estate locations for a new restaurant one day and talking to our marketing cooperatives in our individual television markets the next.”

Quite a change for a guy who quit his first job because of its travel demands. That was when he was an accountant at Ernst & Whinney in Chicago. The Gary, Ind., native started there after getting a bachelor’s in accounting in 1982 from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. “My wife and I were expecting our first child, and I was living out of a suitcase. I needed something that provided a better work/life balance.” The couple’s three daughters are now 20, 18 and 14.

He started at McDonald’s in 1984, working as an accountant at headquarters. He was controller of the Tampa, Fla., Region from 1986 to 1988. Jackson then moved to McDonald’s operations management-training program, where he liked having a direct effect on results he had been tracking at the corporate level. In 1998, Jackson became market-optimization director for McDonald’s Southeast Division, which includes the Raleigh Region. Three years later, he became vice president/general manager of the Raleigh Region.

Since 2003, the Raleigh Region — one of eight in the U.S. — has ranked among the top three in sales and customers. Sales last year were nearly $1.2 billion, a 12.2% increase over 2003. McDonald’s estimates that each restaurant in the region served nearly 500,000 customers in the last 12 months, averaging almost 1,300 a day. Overall, the region had a 7.5% increase in customers — best of all McDonald’s regions. The high volume of business stems primarily from population growth in the Sun Belt and its busy interstate highways.

Jackson’s other travels occur at more precise distances — 26.2 miles. He finished his first marathon at 27 and tries to compete in two a year. His most consistent training partner has been his wife, Margaret, who ran cross-country at St. Joseph’s.

Jackson’s goal for this year is to qualify for his first Boston Marathon. “I’ll get there. I just have to put in the miles.”