Episode 17 Recap: Dr. George Yang on McDonald’s and humble beginnings

Every Filipino knows the slogan Love ko ‘to” for a reason.  

For the season finale of the 17-episode documentary series Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart, CHiNOY TV introduces a tale of commitment, perseverance, and love to an ambition that has brought to our dining tables the largest fast food chain in the world — McDonald’s! 

Revealing the humble beginnings of those iconic golden arches here in the country, McDonald’s Philippines Founder and Chairman Dr. George Yang shares the hardwon battles that he has faced to earn the Yang family a franchise that now operates over 650 branches nationwide. 

Here are what viewers have taken away from his story:


Be persistent and disciplined. 

Dr. George Yang faced several difficulties in obtaining the franchise rights to McDonald’s Philippines. At the time, not only was there the fact that Yang did not yet establish himself as a reliable big name, but also that the McDonald’s executives then could not even locate the country on the map. 

“I started writing to them, and I think that was starting 1974 or ‘75. I was already writing to them, asking for information. How do I get a franchise? But it was still a long, long process because, first of all, they don’t know about the Philippines. Where is it? They don’t even know. So I would inform them. We’re already westernized. In fact, we were colonized by the US for a number of years,” explained Yang.

“I found out they already opened in Japan first in Asia; and then afterwards, they opened in Hong Kong. But mostly, they were in Europe. They didn’t seem to be that interested. They wouldn’t even talk to me. The Philippines — anong klaseng market ‘yon?

“But one time, I went to a small coffee shop in Cubao for merienda, and I found that their sandwich — yung wrapper nila nakalagay Big Mac. So what I did was I took the sandwich and kept the wrapper and sent it to them. I said, ‘You better register this brand, or you lose the brand.’ They replied to me by sending an application. So that visit to the coffee shop was a stroke of luck.” 

Inspired by Yang’s experiences, Lizaran John posted: “DR. GEORGE T. YANG taught me that in making your dreams come true, you must have the persistence, discipline, and the right actions. Stay positive, and focus on goals, not on the hindrances or challenges that come in your way. [When] putting up a business, especially, if there are so many competitors, we should think of a unique way to stand out and make long-term goals [that would enable] our business to last for a lifetime.” 

Leahlyn Pangilinan Nuestro Villasan also shared, “I was inspired by Dr. GEORGE T. YANG for being persistent, disciplined, hard working, and humble, [as well as for being] a talented businessman and musician. I learned that if you want to put up a business, either big or small, you must not be afraid of the failures or challenges that you will face along the way. Instead, focus on your goals, and continue to be consistent with your actions.”

Meanwhile, Roselien Tendero wrote, “Watching Dr. GEORGE T. YANG inspired me to do my best to become successful in the career path that I choose. No matter how many failures I face, I should never give up and find ways to reach my goals in life. Starting from scratch is not easy, but if you believe in your dreams and not be distracted by obstacles, you will surely become successful.” 


Have the constant desire to learn.   

But even when the McDonald’s executives finally decided to visit the Philippines, Yang faced major competition. While he himself had to borrow an old Mercedes from his brother-in-law in order to bring them around, huge name companies who also wanted to obtain the franchise rights offered a more welcoming experience, booking high-class hotels and limousines to host the Big M team. 

“On the way, my brother-in-law was driving the Mercedes. I was in front, and these guys were in the back. They were all in suit-and-tie. In the summertime, the Mercedes conked out in the middle of Ortigas! The air-conditioning wasn’t working, and I could see the three of them sweating like anything in my Mercedes. I’m just telling you the difference. I wanted to impress them with the Mercedes, and then the other applicants were taking them around in the limo. So I thought I lost my franchise application at that time,” recalled Yang.

But instead of giving up, Yang decided to take the initiative and contacted the fast food chain’s Hong Kong franchisee through a mutual friend, wanting to see how a McDonald’s store worked himself. For an entire week, Yang, alongside his teenage son Kenneth, learned how to mop the floors, clean the toilet, and man the counter. It was then he realized that he truly could not give this dream up.

“While I was in [Hong Kong], the US guy found out. He asked the managing director, ‘What’s this guy doing here? We didn’t give him the franchise.’ But that probably gave me a step forward because here’s this guy — he must be very interested, and he went to work there. I showed them my interest and my capacity to work.”

At the end of the day, this was how Yang became the McDonald’s Philippine master franchisee — by learning how to do things himself. “I sold myself by telling them I was going to work myself. I’m going to build this business myself, and I’m going to be hands-on. That was my promise to them. I dropped everything else that I was doing and joined and signed up with McDonald’s. They finally signed up with me. So that was the start.” 

Sharing her own insights on Yang’s success, Princess Dianne Lim commented, “To achieve greatness is to learn to invest, take calculated risks, be ambitious, and have the consistent desire to learn. Dr. George Yang’s journey to win the McDonald’s franchise was a very tough challenge. He was just a small potato back then, compared to all the other more powerful and richer prospective franchisees, but he never gave up on his dream. 

“In fact, he took the lowest job at McDonald’s HK, cleaning the floors and the toilet just to know how it is inside the world of McDonald’s for one week. He wanted to learn how to run it, so he did it on his own because the best way to learn is to experience it yourself. I was inspired by Dr. George Yang’s story because like him, I want to be my own boss.” 


Don’t miss the replay of the finale of Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart this evening, December 4, at 6:30 PM. The series will return again for another season soon on CNN Philippines. 

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