By Caitlin McPherson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
The McDonald’s restaurant opening at 10 a.m. Thursday in Midway is a guinea-pig store, testing out a ‘boutique’ approach for the world’s largest restaurant company, according to franchisee Joe Graviss.
Graviss said Midway is finally ready for a fast food outlet, but this McDonald’s will be different than his eight others.
The restaurant has only 54 seats for dining, about half of the number of seats at a typical Graviss McDonald’s location.
“They tried it years ago. They kind of got away from it,” Graviss said of the approach. “I asked McDonald’s to come down three times to see if it made sense to put a restaurant at this interchange. . . . Three times I brought them down here and three times they said, ‘No, it’s not a viable market. There’s not enough rooftops, not enough cars.’”
With the success of the Shell station and convenience store in the Green Gables development, Graviss said he asked the company to take another look. That, and perhaps a change in corporate management, changed McDonald’s mind, Graviss said.
Despite the small dining area, Graviss doesn’t expect drive-through customers account for any greater percentage of sales than a typical Graviss McDonald’s. He said his Nicholasville Road store gets 68 to 70 percents of its sales from drive-through.
Graviss’s ownership of the restaurant came as a surprise to many people in Midway, partly because Green Gables developer Dennis Anderson spoke only of dealing with McDonald’s, not Graviss.
Graviss explained that McDonald’s had full control of the construction because the store is a test store for future boutique restaurants.
“McDonald’s wanted to keep control of all development cost,” he said. “They know that I like to spruce things up, for lack of a better term, so they wanted to control the spending and the cite and development cost 100 percent.”
Once McDonald’s achieved what they wanted, they handed control over the Graviss, he said, allowing him to make minor changes such as landscaping, locations of electrical outlets and access to USB portals. The restaurant has wi-fi for Internet access.
The manager of the store will be familiar to some in Midway. The manager of the Nicholasville Road store, Mary Husband, is coming home to supervise a staff of 45, about 30 of whom are from the Midway area, Graviss said.
“She is actually one of our younger tenured managers,” Graviss said. “We are really proud of the fact that a lot of our team will be Midwegians.”
The golden arches aren’t too far from Husband’s front door in the Northridge subdivision. She said she hopes that her new job will give her a small role in helping the community.
“I think it will be just as busy as Nicholasville Road was, because there were a lot of other restaurants on Nicholasville that hurt us a little bit,” she said. “Here we have the interstate and all of Midway, so once we get established I think we can be right there with them.”
But is Midway ready for the arches to shine over the city's established, historic dining options? The fine dining options in Midway have made a name for the city. The Holly Hill Inn, the Heirloom and other restaurants downtown are quite the opposite from McDonald’s.
Graviss said his new restaurant will bring more people into Midway, and boost sales for the historic dining options and other downtown businesses.
One thing is for sure: Midway’s new neighbor is ready to serve the community. The question is, is the community ready to welcome it? The ribbon-cutting for the restaurant will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, with the first meals served at 10. On Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m, a meet-and-greet limited to employees and their families will be held, to create a sense of community.