Restaurant Manager Finds Joy in his Job

Local McDonald's restaurants are owned by the same man, who was determined to create his own future.

Everyone has at least visited a McDonald’s once in their lifetime. 

While some of you may know the person behind the local McDonald’s, many are unaware how this one man started it all.

resident John Carnagio, owns the two McDonald’s in and one in . He also owns the restaurant on Plainfield Road, across from the mall; the one on Houbolt Road near Joliet Junior College and another at Weber and Renwick Roads.

Carnagio didn’t just go to college and walk into this million-dollar career. He earned his way to the top.

Carnagio grew up in the Chicago suburb of Westchester. His Dad worked for public works and his mom was a hairdresser, who worked from home. Carnagio earned his money by cutting grass for the neighbors. It paid well, but he was miserable after college. He had a job, but it was not something he wanted.

Carnagio said one day he came upon a store front that was ideal for his vision of a neighborhood hot dog stand. Unfortunately, he did not have the funds to get the business rolling.

In the meantime, Carnagio’s wife Joanne had a relative involved in McDonald’s. After doing some research, Carnagio sent off a letter to the corporate offices. However, he was declined.

“I knew I was what they wanted, but I had no money, I was too young (only 24) and had no experience,” Carnagio said. 

Eventually he had another meeting and received the same answers. But, Carnagio was determined to make this work.

To obtain some money, Carnagio and his wife purchased a home in Westchester, rehabbed it and sold it. They even had an estate sale and sold everything they could.  

It may have been hell, but it was just the beginning of what is now a success. 

In 1995, Carnagio and his family moved to Channahon. And the McDonald’s off the interstate opened. Carnagio cooked, Joanne was the counter/drive-through lady and there was an office manager.

“It was a blast everyday,” Carnagio said. “And it was scary too. Every day the dot at the end of the tunnel got brighter.”

The business grew and in 1998 the Minooka facility opened. In 2000, the location on Houbolt opened, followed by the Plainfield Road location a year later. The Channahon West and the Romeoville facilities entered the family in 2007.

“I’m very fortunate and happy to go to work,” Carnagio said. “I say and mean it everyday. I have a staff that can balance challenges and personalities. They are the best of the best.”

But what makes Carnagio live up to the McDonald’s slogan of “‘I’m lovin’ it,” is the opportunities he has to be involved with the communities.

“It’s not just flipping burgers,” Carnagio said. “Folks don’t realize it’s more than that. I’m in a nice position to better the community.”

When the Minooka location opened, this opened the doors to Carnagio helping the community. 

“I love the playlands,” Carnagio said. “In this day of video games, kids need to take a break and run around and play. It’s a safe atmosphere for the kids.”

Carnagio said he provides PTO appreciation nights and assists in programs that benefit students on making important decisions in the working world. He is also a huge supporter of the Ronald McDonald Charities.

The Houbolt location is across the street from Joliet Junior College and is a landing pad for lots of students.

“The students come and use the free WiFi and enjoy a cup of coffee,” Carnagio said. 

The Plainfield Road location is the oldest building, but it doesn’t stop the traffic from mall shoppers, the coffee clutches and moms and their children from spending their mornings and afternoons there.

“I hope I’m making a difference to someone,” Carnagio said. “I hope to put a smile on peoples' faces. These are the types of things that make me feel good.”

Carnagio is all about family too; both his biological and McDonald’s family. He said he is fortunate to have a job that allows him to attend family functions, especially his children’s sports activities. Joe, a junior at is the quarterback for the football team. Kelly is a freshman at and is involved in basketball and volleyball. John is a seventh grader at and plays baseball.

He understands that his employees are not just family in the context of their jobs, but have their own families they want to spend time with. Because of that, he is flexible with his employees' schedules.

“Family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Carnagio said.

Christine September 26, 2011 at 01:05 PM
Mr. Carnagio is VERY generous to the community. I fundraise from time to time and he has never turned me down, nor others who have approached him. Whether it's cookies, Happy Meal toys or something else the kids like, John is a good businessman and neighbor. Thank you!
Jennifer September 26, 2011 at 05:17 PM
What a nice article. I had no idea that the same person, a local, owned all those McDonald's! I know that he has donated to the park district and the library, supporting programs with donations and participating in Library Card Sign Up Month, by offering a free item from the $1 menu with purchase when you show your Three Rivers Library card. It's wonderful that he is so generous and gives back to the community. Thank you for this article. I love the 'behind the scenes' local stories. :)
Vanessa Holloway September 26, 2011 at 08:07 PM
Thank you Christine and Jennifer for the nice compliments. Glad you enjoyed the article and other business stories as well.


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