Carli Schrader is the owner and operator of the McDonald’s Golden State Restaurant Group. (Photos by Terence Duffy)

Young Professionals: Carli Schrader

Meet the emerging leaders who envision a bright future for the Capital Region

Back Article Jun 13, 2024 By Judy Farah

Carli Schrader

Owner and Operator, McDonald’s Golden State Restaurant Group

This story is part of our June 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Even though Carli Schrader’s parents owned dozens of McDonald’s restaurants in four counties in the Capital Region, she surprisingly never worked at one growing up. Instead, she moved away from Stockton and went to the University of San Diego, where she majored in business marketing and minored in ethics in law.

She planned on staying until the cost of living in the coastal city got too much for her. She didn’t plan to move back to Stockton, but when she did, she started working at McDonald’s to tide her over until she decided what her next career move would be.

“I ended up loving it. I started working french fries and worked each position from crew person, maintenance person, up through the restaurant,” she says. 

 “We’re very deeply driven, all the generations of our family. We want every day, every guest to feel special.”

Her parents and upper management didn’t let anyone know that she had started working for the family company. “All of our upper management made it very secretive so that I wasn’t treated differently. I really, really appreciated that because I feel like I learned more than, you know, I was just the boss’s kid coming in here,” she says, adding that the managers who trained her are now running some of their restaurants, which she is proud of.

The Schrader family got into the franchise business in a heartwarming way. Her grandfather Don Schrader was a teacher in Kansas and cared for his daughter, Susan, who had Down syndrome. But teaching didn’t provide a sufficient salary, so he started working at McDonald’s on the side.

When the family moved to San Joaquin County because of its good programs for people with special needs, grandpa wanted to buy one of the first franchises in Stockton, but the company had a rule that you had to work for them for 10 years before becoming a franchisee. He reached out to Ray Kroc, the former CEO of McDonald’s, and told him his sister’s story. Kroc sold him the franchise. 

When Schrader’s grandfather retired, her father took over. The Schrader family — which includes her parents Craig and Cathy, sister Meghan, brother Dylan and cousin Corey Johnson — now run 43 McDonald’s in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Amador and Stanislaus counties.  

Carli Schrader sits on the patio of La Cosecha in Cesar Chavez Park.

Carli, a self-described “super nerd,” wears many hats: keeping the company in compliance with California’s extensive laws, meeting with corporate officials and working on tech updates. She points out that McDonald’s is not a factory — they source all their food from the San Joaquin Valley.

“We crack our eggs — anytime you order a muffin or a sausage egg McMuffin,” she says. “We’re really lucky in this San Joaquin Valley that, essentially, if you drove about a 3 1/2-hour radius up and down the state, you could gather all of your grocery items for McDonald’s,” she says.

One of her big goals for the company is to have all California McDonald’s become designated Safe Places, part of a national outreach program where youth at risk and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking can go for help. Workers for Golden State McDonald’s are trained to be aware if a customer feels unsafe.

“There are people out there that need help, but they’re not in a position to say that they need help. Having a place like McDonald’s where, if you’re going to the police station or the courthouse, it’s somewhere that your captor, your bad guy, wouldn’t know,” she says. 

Schrader is also a supporter of PREVAIL, a women and children’s shelter, and helps raise money for scholarships for girls. She also partners with local first responders who use her family’s restaurants for community meetings. (Schrader held a french fry fundraiser for the family of fallen Stockton police officer Jimmy Inn in 2021.)

In her off time, Schrader and her boyfriend, David Eager (a production manager at Prima Frutta Packing, which supplies apples for Happy Meals), take care of their three dogs — Honey the mutt, Gucci the white Pomeranian and Scout, a mutt who Schrader rescued when he was abandoned on a levee. 

Grandpa still drops into the office. Schrader says her family is driven to give back to the city that helped them and Susan more than 50 years ago. “It really goes back to our family. If the community wasn’t so giving to my aunt, we wouldn’t be here,” she says.

“And so the community is very important to our family. We’re very deeply driven, all the generations of our family,” Schrader continues. “We want every day, every guest to feel special.”

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