Meet This '1 in 8' McDonald’s Manager Who's Giving Back To Her Community

Learn about her path here.

Karla Capurro Torres

Community is vital, no matter where you’re from. With that said, the relationships needed for community can be built anywhere; popular eateries fit directly into that mold. McDonald’s, the biggest fast-food chain in the world, is a mainstay in many neighborhoods. The restaurant means a lot to both its local customers and its employees, spurred by the familiarity and comfort that McDonald’s provides. Considering that 1 in 8 Americans have worked for McDonald’s, it comes as no surprise that the company has touched so many lives.

One person who truly understands the impact of McDonald’s from both sides is Karla Capurro Torres, the general manager of a McDonald’s in Sarasota, Florida. A native of Lima, Peru, Karla started working for McDonald’s in late 2018 while not knowing English very well. Starting in the drive-through window, her many interactions with English-speaking customers, plus working alongside Spanish-speaking coworkers, helped her rise up the ranks. Now that she runs the same McDonald’s location she came up in, she fully embraces her store’s role as a community center, a place for people to gather, eat, and enjoy each other’s company.

Speaking to Complex about her experiences as a McDonald’s employee, Karla is thankful for the restaurant, as it provided her with resources not only to improve at her job but also to develop as a professional. Moving to America from Peru in 2018, then landing a job at the most popular fast-food restaurant in the US, isn’t easy; nor is the adjustment. But Karla’s perseverance and belief in McDonald’s helped her see it through. McDonald’s holds an important space in many communities, and this location in Sarasota is led by a proud, honest, and dedicated leader in Karla Capurro Torres. Below, she shares the ins and outs of growing with McDonald’s, touching moments she’s shared with the restaurant’s regular customers, and more. 

Can you share some background on your life before you ever worked at McDonald’s? 

Karla: I’m  from Latin America, Lima. I moved to [the] USA in 2018. My first job was McDonald’s. I’ve been working since Dec. 1, 2018, without knowing English at all, but I learned how to there.

Did you have any memories of McDonald’s before you ever worked there?

In Peru, on my birthdays, my dad made a party every year. I remember just going to McDonald’s to buy toys. I have a lot at home.

I definitely had McDonald’s parties as a kid. Those are cherished memories. What led to you applying at McDonald’s? 

My mom’s friend said to me, “Hey, why don’t you apply to McDonald’s? It’s the first job for everyone. You can learn and you can start there.“ So I did.

When you hear that 1 in 8 Americans have worked at McDonald’s, what does that say to you? 

Well, I feel very proud because I feel like McDonald’s, everyone has the idea to go to McDonald’s to start there. Another store can’t say the same thing, but, I also feel a little sad, because why 1 of 8? Why not 1 of 4, 1 of 2?

Tell me about the area your McDonald’s is in.

I don’t have too many schools, but I have many people that come to eat breakfast every day at night, especially because there’s a nursing home close to my store. And every time they have a party or something, they call us. They feel our trust. I remember one day they didn’t have lights for two days, no power so we brought them breakfast for two days for 120 people.

What was the experience of your first year working at McDonald’s?

To be honest, very frustrating because [I] didn’t know English 100 percent. I wanted to do more, but I can’t. But at the same time, I feel, motivated to be better and do something else. I feel that McDonald’s in particular, if you need something, they [are] going to give you all the tools to get better.

You got better at English. Do you attribute that to you having to be around people talking English all the time at the McDonald’s or around you? 

Well, 60 percent of my coworkers speak Spanish, but…90 percent of my clients, all the people [who] go to eat [at] McDonalds, speak English. So they go to the table. I’m talking to them and asking if it’s okay. Everything…give[s] me the opportunity to learn more words and to learn to talk more English.

When did you start to feel comfortable with English?

At first,  they put me in the [drive-through] window. When I was asked  for ketchup, and I didn’t’ understand  I feel frustrated, but I would start feeling more comfortable six months later, one year later, to talk with a customer. 

How does your McDonald’s impact the community?

A lot of people, our usual customers go every day. They know our name, they know our birthday, we have a party with them. It’s like we feel like it’s…home. When we closed for…COVID, we close[d] for two weeks. They call us, they text us, “Hey, you, you okay?” I mean, we make friends.

Can you speak on the opportunities you received through McDonald’s?

They don’t close any door to give me the opportunity to be more. I started like a normal person and now I’m a manager. And then I speak Spanish , so I help my GM, who just speaks English. Then the opportunity to send me to HQ in Chicago [for] a week for classes and to give me the responsibility now for my store. It’s nice.

Do you feel the skills and traits that you learned as a McDonald’s employee have prepared you for whatever you may go on to do in the future?

Yes, to be my first job, my experience training people, to understand everyone [and] learn at the same time will help me. To show the people if I do it, you can do it. I started with 0 percent English. If you start the same way, you can be better or more.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned at McDonald’s?

Understanding, because everyone [comes] from different countries. Even [if] we speak Spanish, it’s different Spanish. Some people come in the country, they are doctors or lawyers; everyone starts at zero.

What’s your favorite McDonald’s meal or order?

Chicken McNuggets with ranch!

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