From racoons to bomb threats, 99 Rideau Street is no quiet place. Illustration: Rame Abdulkader.
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What it’s like working at the infamous Rideau Street McDonald’s

The City of Ottawa has its fair share of internationally recognized landmarks: from the satisfying symmetry of the centre block of Parliament Hill, to the reflections of the city on the Rideau Canal, Ottawa is no stranger to the eye of the tourism industry. But perhaps no point of interest in the National Capital region is quite as riveting as a hole in the wall in the heart of downtown Ottawa: the Rideau Street McDonald’s.

The Fulcrum spoke with a student at the U of O who is also a current ‘crew member’ at the 24-hour McDonald’s at 99 Rideau Street to get an insider’s perspective at what goes on inside what may be both the most bizarre and fascinating McDonald’s franchise in all of Canada.

The Fulcrum has agreed to protect the identity of the employee, referred to as Taylor in this article, to prevent any negative backlash or disciplinary action from their employer.

The Fulcrum: Taylor, what are some of the craziest things you’ve seen or heard of while working at the Rideau McDonald’s?

Taylor: The classic one everyone talks about and the first question I get asked when I tell people that I work there is the raccoon story. It happened almost four or five years ago. There was a fight, no a brawl going on, and all of the sudden this old man on the side that has a racoon in his jacket shows it off to everyone and tucks it back into his pocket. That’s the story everyone knows, totally wish I was there for it.

F: Us too, Taylor, us too. What other kinds of bizarre things have you seen or heard of happening?

T: I’m trying to think, there’s just so many. There’s usually two or three fights a night. I work in the kitchen usually, so I won’t see how fights start, but all of the sudden there’ll just be a full on brawl happening in the lobby. On average, security has to be called two or three times a night, we have walkie talkies at this point.

I remember one night one of the crew members who used to work here got into a fight with this woman. I think she knew her or something and was provoking her, and this coworker would get really mad, really easily, so they were going at it. She was behind the counter, the woman was in the lobby and all of the sudden it just escalates. Our crew is trying to jump the counter but the woman literally took one of our trays and hit her in the face. She got a pretty big gash on her face from being slapped by the tray.

Another night, I think it was an overnight shift, we found some guy who full on had a tent set up in the men’s bathroom—he was fully camped out in there. He had been there the whole night apparently, but no one realized until about 6 a.m. when our store manager came in.

F: Is there an especially bad time of the week to be working?

T: Probably Saturday night. It seems like there’s more people that go out on a Saturday night, and it’s typically a little more busy than Friday nights. Also, more of our fights tend to happen on Saturday nights.

F: What’s going through your head midway through a Saturday night shift?

T: It’s push food and get out of there. During the day shifts we do typically follow procedures more closely, but during the night shifts the quality of food goes down. We’re pushing out 40 McDoubles and 80 Junior Chickens at a time, it’s not possible to do everything exactly according to procedure.

F: What about a time of the year—are there any that are especially tough?

T: Generally the holidays: St. Paddy’s Day and Halloween are rough. St. Paddy’s Day this year was really bad. I think right from 11 p.m. it was packed and literally did not stop until like 5 a.m., it was brutal. It was like a can of sardines in there the whole night. I think the average wait time for people to get food was like 20, 30 minutes, but people were so drunk they were just waiting for the food anyway, they didn’t even notice.

F: What do you think makes your franchise so prone to craziness?

T: The location of it. We’re in the heart of everything, the Rideau Centre’s right there, the ByWard Market’s behind us, so I feel like that’s why we’re prone to all these events happening.

F: In the middle of a really stressful shift, say maybe after a racoon makes an appearance, what’s your go-to recovery food?

T: Definitely the Mighty Angus. It’s so good; the sauce is amazing. We’re not allowed to usually make our own food, but overnights (are) more chill so I’ll make my own food and add things to it, kind of make my own sandwich creation.

F: Is it the most underrated product on the menu?

T: No, I’d say the salads. We make up the salads fresh and it’s really good with the chicken and the blend of real veggies. The Greek salad is the best.

F: What’s the most overrated menu item then?

T: The Big Mac. For the money paid for it I don’t think you get much value out of it, I think the Quarter Pounder is better bang for your buck.

F: Clearly, the Rideau McDonald’s isn’t the easiest place to work. What keeps you there?

T: Two things: one is definitely the people that I work with. I’ve gotten really close with them and all the staff are really chill, especially the overnight staff. We’re really close, so we’re pretty much all friends. The second reason is the pure entertainment factor of working there—I get to keep telling these stories.

F: Would you say the Rideau McDonald’s is the most unusual McDonald’s in Canada?

T: I think so, I think we’re known for that actually. One of my best friends goes to Western University in London, Ont., and they were in class one day and the professor mentioned the Rideau McDonald’s. They raised their hand and went ‘my best friend works at that McDonald’s. I was so mad.

This interview has been edited and condensed. For a firsthand look at life inside the Rideau McDonalds, visit 99 Rideau Street on Friday or Saturday nights after 11 p.m. The Fulcrum claims no responsibility for what you may encounter.