Celebrating 30 years of good food and outstanding customer service
Thirty years and counting—that is how Jose “Joe” Ayuyu Sr. foresees the future of McDonald’s Guam and Saipan.
Ayuyu is not just referring to the longevity of their franchise, but his company is also on track to expand its business on both islands of Guam and Saipan so they can best serve their patrons the delicious selection of sandwiches, drinks, and specialty food products that McDonald’s is known for.
The owners of the McDonald’s franchise in Guam and Saipan—Ayuyu with his wife, Marcia, son, Joe Jr., and daughters, Mable and Ashley—are known for their shared determination, perseverance and drive to succeed. The Ayuyus made sure that, as their children grew up, all of them learned and practiced these character traits that Ayuyu considers the building blocks to success.
Ayuyu also places a prime consideration on hard work and in understanding and learning about the industry where one’s business belongs to as key factors to ensuring the success of a business and its owner. “In my case, I got the name McDonald’s, but to make it work, I hired our employees, trained them and I invested in the company,” said Ayuyu.
As an entrepreneur, he had always dreamed of becoming a McDonald’s franchise owner. Armed with guts and the single-mindedness to turn his dream into reality, he brought the famed golden arches to Saipan when he opened its main branch in Chalan Laulau on March 18, 1993. Three years after, his second McDonald’s branch opened in Garapan, giving both tourists and members of the local community a taste of its very popular food offerings.
Ayuyu went into the business without any background nor experience in the food service retail business, much more about a company that is known as the leading global food service provider. Prior to opening McDonald’s of Saipan, Ayuyu was first a civil servant, a former acting director of the CNMI Department of Labor. He then transitioned to the private sector, starting off as a bank manager for Bank of Guam before joining the world of luxury and high-end retail by becoming the vice president and general manager of Hakubotan Saipan. And then came McDonald’s.
Describing his experience as a first-time business owner, Ayuyu said, “I had to learn the business from the ground up, so everything about McDonald’s I had to learn them on my own. It was really challenging because when we opened McDonald’s, we were still busy raising the kids while, at the same time, I was learning the ropes of running this franchise.”
It was Ayuyu’s previous experience both as a civil servant and in the private sector that prepared him for that moment when he decided to pursue the McDonald’s franchise. His involvement in different industries had given him the courage to pursue his longtime dream of becoming a McDonald’s franchisee. “For these, I knew I had a chance of making this work.”
Ayuyu proudly credits his wife Marcia’s support as one of the main reasons behind his family’s success in owning the McDonald’s franchise. “The journey was very challenging, but we overcame it through perseverance and hard work. Together with my wife, Marcia, we managed to prevail over difficulties, and we were able to grow the business.”
Ayuyu also attributes the success of their franchise to the support they get from the McDonald’s corporate headquarters. “McDonald’s is a great company. They make sure they give the owners and operators of their franchises training and educational opportunities by making Hamburger University available for training.” This educational facility is where McDonald’s employees are schooled in restaurant management.
In addition, McDonald’s makes conveniently available and accessible to its franchisees access to new equipment, which helps ensure the quality of products McDonald’s customers enjoy, said Ayuyu.
Having open and constant communication with the corporate office has also ensured McDonald’s of Saipan’s compliance with the high standards the company sets for its franchisees. “They want to guarantee that we offer the best—not just the food we serve but that our customer service is the best. They also make sure that our patrons are comfortable while dining at our facilities.”
Innovation, the use of technology to improve and enhance service and continuous improvement in all aspects of the business is how McDonald’s of Saipan remains competitive while maintaining compliance with the strict standards of food and customer service McDonald’s is known for.
“We recently made major renovations at our main store at Chalan Lau Lau. The kitchen and dining areas were revamped but the biggest impact to more efficient food service is the introduction of the double drive-thru.” This new system has allowed McDonald’s of Saipan to guarantee faster service by allowing the franchise to accommodate more customers, thus cutting down the wait time for customers to be served.
“As we step into the future, I know there’s more work to be done to ensure the delivery of food in a fast and convenient way without sacrificing quality of food and service.” Ayuyu said.
To date, McDonald’s has capitalized on mobile phone apps, the use of digital menu boards for both in-store and drive-thru, and self-order kiosks in stores to cater to customer convenience and fast service.
“Through customer feedback we get through our surveys, we are able to provide quality service and we do a good job of delivering this. We also continue to introduce new products while improving on our current product line,” said Ayuyu.
A major part of McDonald’s success, Ayuyu said, is finding value in customer feedback. “McDonald’s is survey driven. We listen to our customers through surveys, and it is the results of these surveys that we base what we do. Through these results, we are able to put together a plan to accomplish what our customers need.”
The future of the franchise looks bright and promising for the Ayuyus and McDonald’s of Saipan. When the company hit its 23rd anniversary in 2016, the Ayuyus acquired six McDonald’s restaurants in Guam, thus fulfilling their dream of expanding their franchise. And with this, they joined the ranks of being one of the largest employers in Micronesia. Today, McDonald’s of Guam and Saipan is staffed by a team of over 400 employees who work in the family’s 10 restaurants—eight in Guam and two on Saipan. From humble beginnings, the Ayuyus have grown McDonald’s of Saipan, which is now a part of a network of 40,000 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide.
In Guam, the company began the modernization of its restaurants with the renovation of its Yigo branch, which has now turned into a state-of-the-art facility with the restaurants in Tamuning and Hagatna following suit. Awaiting a reopening date is its Harmon branch which is the most recent location to undergo renovation. Once completed, the restaurant will feature an interactive children’s section on the second floor of its Harmon restaurant. McDonald’s in Guam will also be adding a new branch close to the University of Guam in Mangilao, while a new store to serve Guam’s northern section is set for groundbreaking in 2024, said Ayuyu. Within the next five years, Ayuyu foresees opening new restaurants in Palau and in Pohnpei.
On Saipan, the company had also spruced up its main branch in Chalan Laulau, which now features a new kitchen and the two lane drive-thru. Further expansions on Saipan will depend mainly on the state of the local economy, Ayuyu said. For now, McDonald’s of Saipan will maintain its Chalan Lau Lau and Garapan branches. “When the opportunity arises for Saipan, we will take advantage of this. But we will heed the call if there is a demand to open new branches.”
Ayuyu said another important milestone for the company is the addition of Joe Jr., who is now the owner and operator of the restaurant’s Yigo branch in Guam. “We have been preparing our children to eventually take over the business and my role now is to continue to support Joe Jr. and to make sure that things are running smoothly.”
Bringing McDonald’s to the Northern Marianas has brought Ayuyu personal fulfillment and happiness. “I think that we brought a unique type of restaurant to Saipan and the Marianas that all our kids love. With our presence in the community, they don’t need to go to the States or anywhere anymore to visit a McDonald’s and enjoy our offerings because we have them here on the islands.”
McDonald’s of Saipan is grateful for the commitment of their vendors and the local community, which has stood by them and supported their restaurants over the past 30 years.
The Ayuyu patriarch is very proud of the legacy his family has built and shares with the Northern Marianas community. “Growing McDonald’s on Guam and Saipan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We have personally benefited a lot in terms of supporting us as a family. I am so happy and blessed we have McDonald’s. It has provided our family with a means of living and that’s why we make sure that it’s going to be around for a long time.