McDonald’s general manager awarded Business Woman of the Year

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Her out-of-box thinking keeps the restaurant running when things go awry, like using a food truck as a refrigerator, or using fixing exhaust fans herself. Throughout the years, she has seen the restaurant industry adapt to the changing environment and now uses her expertise to train the next generation of McDonald’s employees.

Local general manager for McDonald’s, Haley Trimble, was recently honoured with Business Woman of the Year by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce.

The award was presented on September 27 at the annual Chamber Business Awards to a business woman from the Rainy River District who is committed to the growth and development of themselves, their business, and the community.

The award came as a shock, Trimble says, who has great admiration for many other nominees. She has worked for the local McDonald’s for a total of 12 years but only 4 years as general manager.

Feeling both honoured and proud to receive the award, Trimble encourages women entrepreneurs who desire to make a difference in the community to be persistent and tells them that anything is possible.

“[The award] solidifies all the hard work that I put into turning around the restaurant,” Trimble said. “We went from one of the lowest performing stores in Canada to like up in the second and third quintiles for performance.”

“This makes me feel like I’m making a difference in the community, and really just solidifies my position. And I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and make small differences in the lives of people.”

McDonald’s Fort Frances general manager Haley Trimble gives a short speech after accepting her award for Business Woman of the Year during the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce Business Awards held at La Place Rendez-Vous on September 27, 2023. – Ken Kellar photo

Trimble says she isn’t sure who originally nominated her as Business Woman of the Year.

Born and raised in Fort Frances, Trimble began working at McDonald’s as a general crew member when she was a freshman in high school in 2009, working full time at the restaurant while completing her high school education. Skilled under pressure, she naturally excelled in every situation and was soon promoted to a trainer position.

When Trimble left the restaurant to pursue her post secondary education, she often returned on holidays to help out. Once graduated, Trimble returned in 2017 to full time work at McDonald’s however restarted as a general crew member to prove herself to the new management.

“And when I went back, I was pregnant. So I ended up leaving for a year to be on mat leave,” she said.

Following Trimble’s return from maternity leave in January 2019, her job titles changed in a quick succession. She was promoted to swing manager then assistant manager, and then six months later, to general manager.

Several factors contributed to the decision to return to the workforce soon after giving birth to a child. Trimble describes herself as someone who loves to work, who can’t sit still, and who is perhaps even a workaholic. “I wouldn’t admit that to anyone,” she joked, “but I actually am.”

Trimble acknowledged that some people may have different opinions about working for a fast food chain. She quoted the phrase “you don’t come to work for the job, you come to work for the people,” and shared that the people she works with and the community she serves makes her job so special.

Nevertheless, challenges are unavoidable just like in any other job. Finding and retaining staff has been a source of frustration, along with the unique challenges that come with being a remote restaurant.

Brett O’Meara, Fort Frances McDonald’s Franchisee, owns a total of seven McDonald’s restaurants. Most locations are spread apart, some placed within the Rainy River District and a few others in Winnipeg and Manitoba.

“It’s tough,” Trimble said. “If you need help, you’re kind of on your own.”

Long wait-times when equipment breaks down is not uncommon, she says. To solve the issue, Trimble has taught herself and her staff how to maintain a lot of the restaurant equipment.

“My boss always says that my out of box thinking makes me really good at my job,” she said, providing the example of fixing exhaust fans herself with a technician guiding her through the phone, or improvising with a food truck in the parking lot when the refrigerator broke down.

But drawing back on the idea of people as the source of joy in her job, Trimble says her favorite part of her job involves teaching. Trimble understands that the new generation is heavily built around social media and technology and will find new ways to train younger employees.

“I was a college student when all of this stuff started becoming more prominent,” she said, adding that she is currently 28 years old. “I know how the new employees will respond to the training. You always have to adapt the way that you train or teach people based on their learning abilities or their generation.”

Despite the belief that teenagers are the most difficult age group to work with, Trimble says she loves working with them.

“We’re not their parents, but at the same time, we are teachers in their first job. And we’re teaching them how to be functioning employees,” she said. “They’ll make mistakes. And they’ll have to learn from those mistakes, and they deserve second chances.”

“If they’re with us for four years, they learn how to make responsible choices, and then I get to watch them go off to their forever jobs,” she said, adding that it is the greatest source of fulfillment.

Simultaneously, while the world outside became more digitized, TikTok emerged and learning styles changed, McDonald’s also underwent many internal changes. The restaurant has evolved from a profits and loss focus to a people-focus that was driven by how to keep customers and employees happy.

“I’m the combination of the old school McDonald’s and the new school McDonald’s,” Trimble said.

“I have the training of the old management styles, like this is numbers and goals we need to make… to the basic principles of effective management and how it’s important to get to know your people. And the way that you’re going to keep your people is caring about them beyond the business.”

Going above and beyond in her care for employees, in one instance, Trimble used her spare time to help two immigrant employees learn how to drive so they could get to places without needing to walk long distances.

Reflecting back on her own journey, Trimble shares a word of thanks to former McDonald’s employee Philip Jones, the late Rhoda Oaks, operations manager Jonthan Telega, owner operator Brett O’Meara, and gave a big thanks to the community and all her managers throughout the years.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I wouldn’t be a success, and my restaurant wouldn’t be running the way that it is if it wasn’t for my people and their commitment to me,” Trimble said.

O’Meara, Fort Frances McDonald’s Franchisee, attested to Trimble’s commendable character and representation of Business Woman of the Year.

“Haley has consistently exhibited exceptional leadership during her 12 years serving the Fort Frances community and I couldn’t think of a better person to represent Business Woman of the Year,” he said. “Her remarkable talent for uplifting, motivating, and inspiring our crew, coupled with her unwavering dedication to both the community and her colleagues, sets the gold standard.”

Trimble also takes pride in serving her community including sponsoring the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championships volunteer meals, local holiday toy & food drives and providing over 800 coupons for community hockey tournaments last year alone.

In addition to her community involvement, Trimble was a driving force in her restaurant’s Speed Incentive Award which is a national McDonald’s Canada achievement highlighting their continued efforts to increase efficiencies.