Ask An Expert About: McDonald’s Hamburger University

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Headshot Portrait of Rob Lauber

Meet McDonald’s Chief Learning Officer, Rob Lauber

Rob Lauber is a Senior VP and the Chief Learning Officer for the McDonald’s Corporation

McDonald’s is among the great restaurant-franchising innovators. Everybody knows this thanks to McDonald’ unparalleled visibility, recognition, and permeation. McDonald’s is an indisputable pioneer in the field of convenience dining as well as branding, marketing, supply chain management, and employment.

But did you know that McDonald’s is also a pioneer in the field of corporate education? Hamburger University, founded in 1961 by former McDonald’s grill-cook Fred J. Turner, is one of the first training institutes of its kind. Hamburger University sits on a sprawling 130,000 square foot training facility in the West Loop of Chicago. It has two goals:

  1. To prepare McDonald’s employees for leadership roles within the organization
  2. To prepare employees for college by converting their Hamburger University experiences into credits at accredited two- or four-year colleges or universities

To find out more about the Hamburger University experience, we spoke with Rob Lauber, Senior VP and Chief Learning Officer for the McDonald’s Corporation. As part of his many responsibilities at McDonald’s, Rob oversees Hamburger University operations around the world. While Rob only joined McDonald’s in 2014, 2019 marks Rob’ thirtieth year of experience in the learning and development profession. With a career spanning six companies in four different industries, Rob’s insights into the field transcend the inner-workings of McDonald’s and offers an illuminating glimpse at the world of professional training and corporate education.

To learn more about Hamburger University as well as scholarships and tuition assistance programs provided by the McDonald’s corporation, check out:

HamburgerUniversity Education Link
Hamburger University: A McDonald’s College Education

Otherwise, Read on…

Who is an ideal candidate for an education at Hamburger University? What types of opportunities are made possible with a degree from Hamburger University?

Rob Lauber: Hamburger University is accessible to any Restaurant Manager in our system. We have had more than 350,000 managers attend Hamburger University programs since 1961 and in a typical year we are reaching more than 5,000 restaurant managers globally.

In many countries, including the USA, attendance and completion of our curricula will translate into accreditation towards a higher education degree or a nationally recognized certification level. For example, our programs in the USA help managers receive college credit for completing our programs. In countries like the UK or Australia, they can receive certification towards a nationally recognized qualification.

What academic credentials are needed to enter Hamburger University? How competitive is the admissions process?

Rob Lauber: Hamburger University has been typically only available to restaurant managers and those directly in line to become one. That makes the eligible pool in the neighborhood of 75,000 people in our system of nearly two million worldwide. Typically, our independent franchise owners will nominate people to attend—so while there are not academic requirements per se, attendance is quite selective.

What types of opportunities are made possible by a degree from HU?

Rob Lauber: Any person who is a restaurant manager or is in line to become a restaurant manager in the McDonald’s system can attend Hamburger University. In 2019, we expanded offerings to franchise owners themselves and have had more than 100 owners attend offerings at Hamburger University.

Those that attend Hamburger University offerings leave better-equipped to run great restaurants—a foundational part of our business strategy. Many who attend are running multi-million dollar locations at a fairly young age. This, in turn makes them excellent business owners in the long term.

Can you briefly describe a day in the life of a Hamburger University student? What kinds of opportunities and challenges can students expect?

Rob Lauber: A typical day in the life of a participant at Hamburger University would be focused on several things: building their leadership capability, learning from peers and experts, and engaging in challenging scenarios that generate insights into their own styles, opportunities, and strengths.

We’re told that company founder Ray Kroc would actually teach courses in the early days of Hamburger University. How are Ray Kroc’s values and principles reflected in today’s curriculum? What kinds of experience and background do your current instructors bring to the classroom?

Rob Lauber: Ray Kroc’s legacy (as well as [Hamburger University founder] Fred Turner’s) carry on to this day. We have a quote in Hamburger University that says, Because we have learned, we have grown. And it still holds true. Ray started Hamburger University with the idea of being able to help Restaurant Managers be competent and confident leaders. Our focus on this principle remains true today.

Our instructors have the challenging task of carrying on the tradition of the brand of Hamburger University. They typically have extensive experience in running our restaurants as well as being skilled in facilitation techniques designed to help enable our participants to learn. They are tasked with creating an environment that challenges our participants to develop a new mindset about themselves as leaders as well as develop new skills to energize and engage their people when they return—resulting in running great restaurants.

Do you offer any online educational opportunities? Do you have any working partnerships with accredited colleges or universities?

Rob Lauber: We do. Through our Archways to Opportunity program, participants can receive college credit toward their training.

Hamburger University recently moved from its original Oak Brook campus to the new Chicago campus. How has this move changed the Hamburger University experience? Are you enjoying the new home?

Rob Lauber: The Oak Brook experience was a special, iconic place for our restaurant managers to come and learn. As we have moved into our new Headquarters in the West Loop of Chicago, we have been able to modernize the entire experience. Our space contains cutting-edge digital features that provide personalization for our participants as well as video broadcast capabilities that enable outside-in participation by our franchise owners where they can share their journey, experiences, and lessons learned.

Our location is in an exciting part of the city, so that certainly adds to the wow experience for participants. Many actually put photos up on Instagram under the #HamburgerUniversity tag and we can bring those posts into our facilities in real time. It has all the traditions of a classroom facility combined with significant technology enablement. It is exciting!

To learn more about the Hamburger University program as well as scholarships and tuition assistance programs offered through the McDonald’s corporation, check out Hamburger University: A McDonald’s College Education. If you see Hamburger University as a jumping off point to a future degree in business administration, considering following your McDonald’s training with one of these online programs:


And if you’re looking for a way to balance your advancing career as a leader in the McDonald’s corporation with the pursuit of a college or graduate degree, go to:

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