For Hudson, burgers, work ethic go together

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Rob Hudson came by his work ethic at an early age.
“My dad delivered newspapers in Chicago. That’s seven days a week,” the 45-year-old Tupelo resident said. “At age 6, I started going to work with him on Sunday morning. That was just what we did. I was with family, hanging out with my dad.”
About eight years later, Hudson’s dad decided it was time to get out of the newspaper business, and he approached the people at McDonald’s.
“I remember him going to Oxford to check things out. He came back and said, ‘We’re moving to Mississippi,’” Hudson said. “We packed our bags, and I started making French fries.”
That fry grease must’ve gotten into Hudson’s blood, because he owns four restaurants in Tupelo, one in Saltillo, one in Pontotoc and one in New Albany.

Sooner or later
That wasn’t always the plan.
“In college, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” he said.
At the University of Mississippi, he earned a degree in banking and finance, as well as managerial finance. After graduation, he had a choice to make.
“I knew I was going to get into McDonald’s sooner or later, so why not get started early?” he said. “If your family is in the business, you still have to go through McDonald’s approval process. I would suggest the process is harder for a second generation.”
He’s been to Hamburger University, which is a real place in Oak Brook, Ill. He’s done every job that can be done at a McDonald’s. If you want a Big Mac …
“I can knock it out,” he said with a grin.

At work
As an owner-operator, Hudson doesn’t spend much time behind the counter. Hudson Management Co. has about 600 employees.
Many of those are teenagers working their first jobs, but others have spent five, 10, 15 and even 20 years with the company.
“We know our place in people’s journey,” he said, “but we have people who make a career with us.”
At all of his restaurants, Hudson offers a $1,000 scholarship. He currently has an assistant manager and a general manager who benefited from the scholarship as teenagers.
“I never expected to get the fruits,” he said, “but that’s how it worked out.”
Still, plenty of people have come and gone over the years. He regularly runs into folks who say, “Hey, I used to work for you.”
Hudson said he sees it as his responsibility to pass along the work ethic that he learned as a child.
“When you think about it, we have the opportunity to teach life skills,” he said. “We don’t want to miss the chance to have an impact on our employees.”

In the community
He’s also had an impact on the community at large. Hudson is vice present of the board of directors for Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi, and he’s the board president for Parkgate Pregnancy Clinic.
Last spring, the Association for Excellence in Education awarded Hudson and his wife, Tracy, with the J.C. Whitehead Award as corporate education advocates. The pair also teach Sunday school to sixth-grade girls at St. James Catholic Church.
“It all fits,” he said. “I have a vested interest in the community and what it provides for me, my family and my employees.”
It takes work to oversee seven restaurants, to volunteer his time and to be a parent to four kids, Hannah, Larkin, Mary Grace and Caroline.
“At home and at McDonald’s, we talk all the time about work ethic,” Hudson said. “I don’t know where it came from, but I know working at such a young age with my dad … set a level of expectation of what my life would be.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.