Work at McDonald's? I'm loving it

Parents often warn their children that when they misbehave, "mata" (slang for police) will get them.

And if they don't study hard, they will end up working in a fast-food restaurant.

But there's nothing wrong with a career in the fast-food business, Mr Mohamed Hilmi tells The New Paper on Sunday.

In fact, it can be a lifelong career.

Commenting on the oft-used warnings, he says: "Yes, I have heard of this. People are always curious about why I chose to work in McDonald's when I have a degree."

The unmarried 30-year-old has a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Tasmania and has more than a decade of experience in the company, first working as a barista and then as a trainer for the fast-food chain.

Mr Hilmi says: "They don't know that a career in McDonald's is not just about serving and cleaning tables. There are many opportunities to succeed."

Like many others, he started working in the chain as a temporary job, joining McDonald's pioneer batch of nine baristas in 2004.

This was when the McCafe concept was first launched here.

"Initially, I saw it as a temporary way to make money while studying at the polytechnic," recalls Mr Hilmi.

"I had no experience making or drinking coffee. I wasn't even a fan of coffee at the start, but it grew on me."

He toiled in the restaurant at Parkway Parade, balancing work and school and was eventually promoted to barista leader.

Then in 2009, he left McDonald's to pursue his degree.

He returned to the company as soon as he graduated in 2012.

Mr Hilmi says: "There were always times when I thought of switching careers and doing something else, but this is my happy place and my second home."

Over the years, he has grown fond of his colleagues, whom he calls his McFamily.

It was because of them that he decided to make McDonald's a serious career choice, despite his peers' scepticism.

He explains: "It is not prestigious but they don't understand how I feel. There are aunties who have worked here for more than 30 years.

"It motivates me that even though some of them are old, they try hard.

"We know each other's strengths and weaknesses, what we can or cannot do. The McFamily is what keeps me attached and grounded."

He declines to share how much he earns, but says that even though he could not fulfil his childhood dream of being a teacher, McDonald's still gave him the opportunity to teach.


As a master trainer at the McDonald's in Marine Cove today, he oversees operations at its McCafe and dessert kiosk, including hiring and training crew members and ensuring they are equipped with the right skills for the job.

This means he is responsible for the 100 hours of training and on-job experience each barista is required to undergo.

Mr Hilmi confesses that he has had his fair share of mistakes on the job too, having caused several accidents with "milk explosions" while steaming milk for coffee orders.

His proudest moment was when he was asked to design food items for the menu - the cheesy mushroom, tomato and onion sandwich, which is exclusive to Marine Cove, was developed by Mr Hilmi.

This can be stressful as McDonald's food is something that is often discussed by the public.

Mr Hilmi says: "Thankfully, we have focus group studies and menu teams to brainstorm and pore over every detail before rolling it out, so it's not so bad.

"My dream is to see the food I created offered everywhere. It will be quite an honour."


  • Be aware of popular trends, such as the recent salted egg flavours craze. It's important to know what flavours to go for when creating food and drinks for a menu.
  • Always interact with your customers and get feedback about your service.
  • Watch what you eat to take care of your palette. You need your taste buds to be at their best so you know what you are serving to customers.

This article was first published on Aug 7, 2016.
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