By Trevor W. Coleman
Last November a small contingent of Detroit’s Black McDonald’s Operators Association (BMOA) members gathered at a McDonald’s restaurant on West 8 Mile to pick up and hand out turkeys to families in the area.
It’s not the kind of gesture most people would expect from a McDonald’s franchise owner but was entirely consistent with the sense of community and commitment from this small group of African American entrepreneurs.
It was a display of the commitment the Detroit BMOA has shown the community for the nearly 50 years of its existence as a group of local businesses committed to excellent customer service and community service.
But now, some members are concerned that the organization has fallen on hard times as its member ship has consistently shrunk over the past decade.
Bill Pickard, an original founding member of the Detroit BMOA said the once nearly 25 strong Detroit group is now down to eight or perhaps nine members.
“We probably had 20 owners or more at one time and now we’re down to less than 10,” he said. That’s a 50 percent drop off man. Of the remaining 8 or nine franchises in Detroit, half are in trouble. What happened?”
So concerned with the viability of the Detroit franchises and organization, the national BMOA Board of Directors is holding a regional meeting this week at the MGM Grand Casino Hotel in Detroit to assess the situation.
Pickard, who owns a McDonald’s at Michigan Ave. and Livernois, said they don’t hold those kinds of meetings locally unless there are real concerns. And he has his suspicions regarding the problems.
“Basically, we have many people who are not eligible for growth. And they’ve had to make major reinvestments in the last couple of years. And if you are already highly leveraged and you must make more investments it’s just a difficult amount of pressure on an organization,” he said.
Bernard Price, a retired franchise owner and one of the founding members of the BMOA agreed. He said although he sold his McDonald’s in 1994, many of the same pressure exist today such as a constant demand by corporate to make renovations and other major capital improvements with scarce resources.
“Over time many black operators didn’t make it,” he said. “They left because of a lack of business acuity or their own problems, and sometimes not.”
“Sometimes it was the company’s fault because when they did give us a store, they gave us one of the poorest stores. So, we started off as disadvantaged no doubt,” Price said.
That is why they formed BOMA to leverage whatever influence they had together to get better terms with the corporation, he noted.
On its website, the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association (NBMOA) calls itself the largest organization of established African American entrepreneurs in the world. It is a 47-year old Organization dedicated to ensuring that African American McDonald’s Owners are fully engaged in all the benefits associated with owning McDonald’s restaurants.
The NBMOA goal is the complete integration of NBMOA members, African American Employees, and Vendors into the McDonald’s system. The NBMOA also works diligently to make sure that McDonald’s fully engage the African American community in a respectful and positive manner.
Price, the NBMOA and Detroit organization co-founder said he hopes for the best.
This article originally appeared in the Michigan Chronicle.