Alumni Q&A: Mac’s Local Eats Owner Chris ‘Mac’ McKenzie
Chris “Mac” McKenzie, a 2000 BSBA graduate from the College of Business Administration at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, prides himself on putting the very best ingredients, as well as his heart and soul, into creating his famous smash burgers every day at Mac’s Local Eats since launching in 2017 and has built a reputation for serving one of – if not the – best burgers in town.
What is your UMSL story?
Long story short, I moved back to St. Louis from Evansville, Indiana, in 1998 after leaving my job as plant manager at my father’s manufacturing company and before finishing my bachelor’s degree. The thing I remember most about my time at UMSL was a teacher I had for several finance classes, Nasser Arshadi. He was extremely smart, fun and a great teacher. The finance lessons I learned during those classes have proved invaluable. The other thing I tell people was the business program at UMSL was excellent. We were pushed and challenged by the educators.
You’ve worked at McDonald’s, as an engineering director for your father’s manufacturing company and in IT. How have those experiences contributed to your success?
Working in a handful of restaurants – McDonaldʼs being the first – and then working in those environments has played a big part in running Mac’s Local Eats. Understanding ergonomics, quality raw materials, consistency and eliminating inefficiencies are at the core of producing a spectacular product. The one big difference in the restaurant is the immediacy of the service factor. You learn right away if the customer is happy.
How did you end up starting Mac’s Local Eats?
In 2004, I decided to source and eat “cleaner” and convinced friends and family to do the same. The story of doing these meat shares for eight years cannot be overstated enough because it became a thing. Foodies, chefs, the media and restaurateurs were involved and aware. We launched Mac’s Local Buys in 2013 selling meat shares and food subscriptions. The focus of the brand was to buy in bulk – seasonal, high quality, local produce and proteins. We built a brand around it, and when we opened Mac’s Local Eats, we continued with that same ethos. As such, everything on our menu is very intentional and nothing is wasted.
What does it mean to you to have built a dedicated, loyal following with national acclaim?
It’s incredibly humbling. At the same time, it’s also bananas. Literally every day, I think, “What have we created?” It puts a lot of pressure on us to execute, when everyone walking in the door is seeking Burger Nirvana. I used to jokingly say to folks, “It’s just a cheeseburger.” But not anymore. I’ve learned that it’s more than that. It’s the whole experience and knowing that you are supporting a local network of farmers, producers and staff. Good service and good food. It’s not a fad. It sells.
What are your goals for yourself and Mac’s Local Eats?
To create an environment for our staff to grow, excel and stick around in and to continue delivering a high-quality experience for our guests. That’s it. We aren’t looking for a second location or franchising. This is plenty of work for us, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.
This story was originally published in the spring 2022 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have a story idea for UMSL Magazine, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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