Cathie and Richard Perna possess a decades-long record in the restaurant business and now have received the top honor a McDonald’s franchisee can earn: the Golden Arch.
The Pernas are owners and operators of seven McDonald’s locations in the borough. The Golden Arch Award is given to just 1 percent of restaurant franchises nationwide. The Pernas were presented with the award recently by McDonald’s Corporate executives in a surprise ceremony at their 300 E. 204th Street location, along with their daughter Michelle Perna who is a general managers at one of their locations, and four managers. The managers started off on as teenagers and worked their way up to being Ray Croc Award winners: Salam Abdul-Wahab, Patrickson Carrette, Roger Modeste and Diana Bow.
All seven of the Perna’s McDonalds restaurants are in the borough, with the first two, located at 2516 White Plains Road at Allerton Avenue and 300 E. 204th Street, acquired in February 1993 after Cathie Perna had run a Staten Island location for 18 months, Cathie Perna related. Other locations soon followed: 1316 Castle Hill Avenue in 1996; 2170 White Plains Road in 1997; 1865 Bruckner Boulevard in 2004; 1212 E. Gun Hill Road, which had been the Bronx’s first McDonalds, in 2005; and 3509 Webster Avenue in 2007, Cathie Perna stated.
The award came as surprise to both Pernas.
“We were completely surprised and shocked, and yes, it was a dream because it is the most prestigious award in the entire company,” Cathie Perna said.
The Pernas have worked for the past 15 or 16 years and have done their best to work with their employees to create a fantastic customer experience at the front counter of all of their restaurants, Richard Perna said.
“From my perspective we come to work everyday and do our best, and you never think people are watching to that degree,” Richard Perna said. “I think that it is all about recognition for the people, it is not about money. It is the recognition of your peers and a company that you admire saying that you have done a great job.”
Numerous youths who started out on a Perna crew as teenagers, including Abdul-Wahab who worked nights renovating one of the first locations on White Plains Road, have gone on to become managers in the corporation, own homes, and have families, Richard Perna said. “Those success stories should be talked about more,” he stated.
The Pernas have done a “tremendous job” giving back to the community and have gone above and beyond working with young people they hire in their restaurants, said 49th Precinct Community Council president Joe Thompson. The Pernas first suggested the construction of a skate park on Bronx Park East and Allerton Avenue after seeing that there were a lot of young people skateboarding in their parking lot, Thompson said. Thompson’s son worked for Cathie Perna and he was taught to be on time and be prepared, and when he was having trouble in math, he even received tutoring at the restaurant at no charge, Thompson said. They have also contributed fruit juice to National Night Out and helped sponsor precinct council breakfasts and up to four teams per year at the Pelham Parkway Little League over a more than 20-year period, Thompson said.
The key to running successful restaurants is to invest not only money, but also training and education into the workforce, Richard Perna said. It is all about the people, he added.
Cathie Perna worked at the first McDonalds in Throggs Neck when it opened in 1974. The Pernas met when they were teenagers living in Throggs Neck and raised their daughter on Revere Avenue, Cathie Perna stated.