A McDonalds that preaches the Gospel? You betcha! An article from the Chicago Tribune...
Big Mac with a little gospel on the side
By Johnathon E. Briggs
Tribune staff reporter
September 10, 2006
A McDonald's restaurant on the South Side of Chicago might be an unlikely spot to catch the Holy Spirit.
But for the last three years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, soul-stirring gospel music has filled the parking lot, the dining area, even the bathrooms of the Golden Arches at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
The grainy, full-throated contralto of Mahalia Jackson's 'I Will Move on Up a Little Higher'--could it be coming from the larger-than-life cutout of Jackson in a faux recording booth in the back of the store?--complements the aroma of Big Macs.
A mural tells the story of gospel music and photos of gospel artists decorate the dining area. A glass display case brims with porcelain African-American angels.
Choirs come in for live performances, or even the occasional worship service. Employees punctuate sales with 'Have a blessed day,' and customers are saying 'Amen' to the Gospel McDonald's.
Since franchise owner Yolanda Travis transformed this fast-food sanctuary, she has enjoyed a double-digit increase in sales and, by all accounts, changed the vibe of a notoriously rough corner that straddles the border between the Bronzeville and Hyde Park neighborhoods.
Located in the shadow of a cut-rate liquor store, the site had been a hot spot for rowdiness and crime, police records show.
But longtime customers say that since the arrival of Gospel McDonald's and its strong-willed operator, the ranks of loiterers have thinned and they have experienced a kinder, gentler corner.
"The music kind of soothes your nerves," said Minter, 74, during a recent lunch rush. "You got something to calm you down. You don't stress out."
Shift manager Rory Grant said the restaurant's inner calm has spilled into the street. He doesn't see as many men huddled on the corner clutching bottles wrapped in brown paper bags, and customers seem to act right in the presence of something spiritual.
"When first I started in 2002, it was rough up in here," said Grant, 22. "Now they come in all polite."
Employees and customers say that Travis' hands-on management style is also behind the revival.
The former Illinois Air National Guard sergeant is known for running a tight ship and won't tolerate what she describes as "nonsense" on her premises.
Indeed, Travis made headlines last year when a Kenwood Academy High School student was handcuffed and arrested inside another McDonald's franchise she operates at 5200 S. Lake Park Ave.
The teenager had been protesting a policy that required students to sit in a separate area from other customers, a policy Travis said she implemented based on customer complaints about unruly behavior. After the incident she scrapped the policy and issued an apology.
So far, Travis hasn't encountered any protest about the gospel theme. That's a sign to her that she's filling a need.
"A lot of people believe, but they don't want to go to church," Travis said. "So they come here and listen to the music. It's a lot of stay-at-home Sunday worshipers, you know?"
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune