He runs 16 McDonald’s restaurants — the only black franchise owner in WI: “I love what I’m doing”

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MILWAUKEE -- At the McDonald's near 76th and Good Hope, there's a lot on the menu. What's not is the secret ingredient -- and we're not talking about the special sauce. We're talking about the man who owns and operates the franchise store -- Robert Pyles.

Robert Pyles

Robert Pyles

Pyles is an Alabama native who opened his first McDonald's in Milwaukee 19 years ago. Today, he operates 16 McDonald's restaurants in Milwaukee. He’s the only African-American McDonald's franchise owner in Wisconsin. But there’s more. He’s also a minister at Abundant Faith Church of Integrity on Good Hope Road.

FOX6 News caught up with Pyles at the McDonald's headquarters on Milwaukee’s northwest side. We asked him how he keeps it all balanced.

"Halftime!" Pyles said.

What does that mean?

"When you deal with tragedies, in a basketball game, they got a halftime and you go in the locker room and you really begin to look at what happened in the first half. Make your changes," Pyles said.

McDonald's

McDonald's

Pyles said he practices that message everyday. It starts when he wakes up at 3:30 a.m. and hits the gym inside the McDonald's headquarters. It’s open to any McDonald's employee who wants to attend. Pyles said people do show up!

From there, it’s time to get down to work in what Pyles calls "the war room." That is a place where the strategy is laid out for the day-to-day operations required to run 16 stores.

Robert Pyles in "war room"

Robert Pyles in "war room"

"War room"

"I don’t separate. I don’t wear no minister hat. I don’t wear a pastor’s hat. It’s the same thought. I try to run everything succinctly because I love what I’m doing.  I don’t try to go out of the zone, so when people say the ministry, McDonald's and all that -- it’s all one hat." Pyles said.

Robert Pyles' McDonald's restaurants

Robert Pyles' McDonald's restaurants

Abundant Faith Church of Integrity

Abundant Faith Church of Integrity

Pyles is one of nine children raised by a single mother in a small town outside of Anniston, Alabama. He practiced putting on that “one hat” at an early age.

"My older brother passed away at 18, so I had to grow up at a young age. Always working, always providing. Feel like I had to be the man of the house," Pyles said.

After high school, Pyles went into the Air Force where he served for 15 years, living in Korea, North Dakota and Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was there that he started working at McDonald's part-time at night and on weekends to make some extra cash.

One of his mentors, Don Thompson, suggested he check out some restaurants in Milwaukee – a city Pyles knew nothing about.

"All I knew was Laverne and Shirley," Pyles said.

Robert Pyles and his wife Betty

Robert Pyles and his wife Betty

Pyles moved to Milwaukee with his wife Betty and their three children and never looked back.

"I love Milwaukee. I get upset. I love Milwaukee. You gotta go where you can flourish, you know? Milwaukee has been great," Pyles said.

On days where everything doesn’t go as planned, Pyles said he doesn’t dwell on it.

Robert Pyles' children

Robert Pyles' children

"One thing I learned a long time ago -- if I can’t change it, I can’t change it. If I can’t do something about it, if it’s not in my wheelhouse, or whatever, it’s OK," Pyles said. "Once you stress out and get upset, you can’t think."

Robert Pyles

Pyles also has a little reminder of how things used to be. There’s a framed picture that hangs in the room next to his office. It’s of a food stamp, and underneath reads "Never Forgotten." It’s a constant reminder of his childhood when there wasn’t a lot to go around. Despite that, he enjoys everyday and always has. Especially now. He says he is having the time of his life.

Robert Pyles and family

Robert Pyles and family

In case you're wondering -- does Pyles eat the food at McDonald's? When asked, he responded with an enthusiastic "yes!" He said he has his favorites, but the Filet-O-Fish probably tops them all.

11 comments

  • Please Research

    He is not the only black franchise owner in WI. Please look up Valerie Daniels-Carter. She’s been making her mark for a very long time.

    • Realist

      My guess is they mean only black McDonald’s franchise owner. Daniels-Carter owns Wendy’s sites, doesn’t she?

    • Juneau Ave

      Founding V & J Foods in 1982 — with the help of her brother John Daniels’ financial backing — the first franchise under the operation of Valerie Daniels-Carter opened in 1984. A year later, V & J Foods expanded with an additional site, paving a road of accomplishment that many in the food and franchise industry aspire to travel.

      Today, the largest female-owned franchise operator in the country, V & J Foods hosts 127 units in the states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin and Ohio.

      “It was a continual kind of growth pattern. We went through the application process, which was very long. After that… the market we were interested in, Wisconsin, was available,” says CEO Daniels-Carter, speaking on the initial steps that she and her brother took to own their first Burger King restaurant.

  • Juneau Ave

    This is a gentlemen that if you hit the McDonald rest in milwaukee you just might be sitting next to him as he reviews the crew and store.. he is a reg guy and a great family man.. more of what the community needs.. yep.. Thank you for your Service Airman from a Blue Star Mom

  • Tim Bones

    There is an African American woman who owns a number of Burger Kings here in the Milwaukee area and also in Michigan. I think a former Milwaukee Bucks player has a number of BK or other brand franchise stores too. Black entrepreneurs are more common than we give them credit for.

  • Major Cooper

    I believe he has the worst McDonald’s in the city. The staff are very unprofessional and disrespectful. Several times I have left him messages and never received a phone call back. As a former McDonald’s employee myself I look at him as a franchise owner who is very disconnected from his stores and wish Corporate McDonald’s would come shut his stores down.

  • Jacki Sandberg

    I used to work at 4 of his restaurants when they were Corporate owned. This was back between 1993-2000. I started my career at the store on 76th & Capital/Appleton. That used to be the top store in Milwaukee. Number 1 in training and development of people. I was proud to be an employee of McDonald’s and that restaurant, now since Pyles owns and operates it, that store has become so unprofessional and ghetto. I’d be ashamed to work at that restaurant let alone any of Robert Pyle’s stores. So glad I stayed with McDonald’s Corporation and transferred to the south side of Milwaukee.

  • Troy Gonzales

    Hello Robert , we worked together when you trained in Cheyenne Wy, for Jack Preiss . Always knew you were something special. Congratulations to you and your family .
    Troy Gonzales.
    Director Of Operations
    Postel Mgmt
    McDonalds of Casper and Douglas Wy.

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