He's the kind of guy who always has a smile twitching at the edge of his mouth. He's a people person. Down-to-earth despite those flashy diamond rings. Can talk to anyone. And that's probably the secret to his success.
Hani Sidaros is Canberra's Mr Maccas. No, make that Australia's Mr Maccas.
He owns 12 McDonald's stores in Canberra. Twelve. That's more than anyone else in Australia. Well, except for that one pesky guy in Melbourne who also owns 12. So they're in a tie at the moment. But Sidaros is determined to upsize and add to his collection of McDonald's stores within the next three to five years.
In fact, his big goal is to one day own all the McDonald's stores in Canberra.
There are 21 stores in the ACT, divided between four local owner-operators.
Owning them all is a bit of a pipe dream but not one Sidaros is willing to give up on.
"I've got big aspirations to grow my business," he says, in a rare moment of relaxation at his home in O'Malley.
"I've always stated to McDonald's that I would love to be able to prove that a one-market operation of this size, 21 stores, can be done and done well."
Then he laughs.
"But I have some colleagues who are lot younger than me and are here to stay. But I'm happy. Competition's good," he says.
So whether it's about taking over existing stores or showing McDonald's he is capable of taking on new ones, Sidaros is there.
"If I get the opportunity to grow, I will," he says.
I was buying in north Canberra and 13 suburbs were still to be built. It was a win-win, I couldn't believe it.Hani Sidaros
Sidaros, 50, and his wife Gehan, currently operate McDonald's stores at Belconnen Lake, Belconnen Food Court, Charnwood, Gold Creek, Kippax, Mitchell,Weston, Dickson, Braddon, Canberra City, Canberra Centre and Gungahlin.
They are a significant employer in Canberra, with 105 managers and 1250 crew members on their books.
And Sidaros looks after them. The night before this interview, he'd hired out the Albert Hall to host his crew person of the year awards. The week before, it'd been the manager's awards at Rydges Capital Hill.
His top manager each year gets a trip for five nights to Los Angeles or New York. They also get to take a partner – or whoever they like – with them.
This year he couldn't separate two contenders so he's sending them both on an overseas trip – Shannon Biggins from his Belconnen Lake store and Sarah Higgs from his City Centre store.
The awards nights cost him tens of thousands of dollars to put on and it's all him doing it; not McDonald's. He is also known to give out movie tickets and iTunes cards to crew members doing well.
"It's important for people to know there's a future and what their future could be. People need to know they fit in somewhere and what happens if they put in this effort, they put in this hard work," he says.
"People are absolutely everything in our business and you can't take them for granted."
And Sidaros knows what being on the drive-through or behind the counter is all about. He started working at McDonald's as a 15-year-old in Blacktown in the western suburbs of Sydney, desperate for an after-school job.
"All my mates had got a job at McDonald's and I hadn't," he says.
"It was a standard thing for McDonald's to interview for jobs between four and five every Monday afternoon.
"So every week for six months I was interviewed by this guy called Warren Bull, I still remember his name.
"And after six months he goes, 'You back again Hani?'. And I said, 'Yes, Warren and I'll keep coming back until you give me a job'."
So that was the start. Thirty-five years later, Sidaros and his wife Gehan and their four sons obviously have a more than comfortable lifestyle in Canberra. But it wasn't always easy for Sidaros.
Born in Egypt, he migrated to Australia with his parents and younger brother in 1970. His mother was a homemaker; his father a carpenter. They settled in the western suburbs of Sydney. His parents still live in the same house the boys grew up in; refusing all entreaties to move to something grander. Maybe it's hard to let go of a house they put so much effort into keeping.
Because within two years of the family arriving in Australia, Sidaros' father broke his back while lifting a heavy table and couldn't work.
"Workers' compensation doesn't operate the way it does now. So he was given some pennies and sent on his way. And it kind of threw the dynamics of the whole family around. Mum had to become the breadwinner and dad was in a brace for about 10 years. Mum had to strap him in each morning," he says.
"So those roles swapped. Mum was uneducated. She was married at 17. Had me at 18. She worked in Lindeman's Wines as a process worker, factory worker. She did a few things on the side. Avon back in the day. Sewing. Dad was recovering for quite some years and it was a tough time."
McDonald's turned out to be a constant for Sidaros. He finished his HSC at Blacktown High and studied civil engineering at the University of Wollongong, working casual shifts at a local McDonald's. But upon graduation in 1990, Australia was in recession and he couldn't get even an interview for an engineering job.
"I started to get really angry with myself. I thought, 'What am I doing wrong?'," he says.
Sidaros worked casual hours full-time at McDonald's until he decided to "clear his head" and sort out his future – by going on a Contiki tour of Europe. Probably not the obvious choice for some life reassessment but one that sounded good enough at the time for a 24-year-old bloke on the edge of despair.
First stop on the tour was his homeland Egypt. First and last stop as it turned out because pretty soon Sidaros had met his wife-to-be, Gehan, at a party.
"I saw her across the lounge at this party and asked my cousin, 'Who's that?'. We got introduced and that was it," he says.
"It's very cultural in Egypt. There's no dating without chaperones, which was very strange for me growing up in Australia – 'What I can't take her on a date? Someone has to come with me?'.
"So I did that for about two months, forgot about the rest of the Contiki tour. Spent two months courting Gehan and asked her dad if I could marry her at the end of it. And then rang Mum and Dad and told them what was going on. They were like, 'What?!'
"That kind of changed my life. I wasn't even entertaining the thought [of getting married]. So it made me make some firm decisions."
Back home in Australia, Sidaros started working three jobs – a couple of shifts back in the Blacktown Maccas, full-time as a duty manager for a string of shops at Central Station in Sydney and a shift at Video Ezy on Sunday nights.
"It was killing me. I wasn't seeing my wife. So me and Gehan sat down to make some decisions and thought, 'Right, let's give McDonald's a red-hot shot and chase it as a career'. At that stage I was 26."
He became a trainee manager at McDonald's Blacktown with Frank Meduri, who has bought and sold close to 20 McDonald's over a 40-year-plus career. Meduri says the young Hani seemed to "thrive on the adrenalin" and "was fired up by the restaurant environment". And it's held him in good stead.
"Hani is a very good people person and he gets the best out of his employees. He's a very good boss," Meduri says.
And Meduri was instrumental in inspiring loyalty towards McDonald's, says Sidaros, who reckoned Meduri understood how hard he was struggling with his three jobs.
"He said, 'Hani, how much do you get paid at this Central Station job? And how many shifts do you do for me? And how much do you get at Video Ezy?'
"He goes, 'Add them all up – that will be your starting salary'.
"And from that discussion alone, I was sold. I thought, 'I'm here to stay, you won't be able to drag me out here with a crowbar'.
"And then I chased it. I chased a career with McDonald's. And I did everything from here [pointing to his heart] and also using this [pointing to head]."
Sidaros was promoted to a store manager and then a supervisor responsible for several stores which "I ran like they were my own''.
In 2003, 22 years after his starting shift as a teenager, Sidaros bought his first store, McDonald's St Clair in western Sydney.
He says he was lucky with that buy.
"The GST had been introduced in 2000 and there were two or three years of really tough times for small business, just trying to adjust and a lot of them didn't," he says.
"It put a lot of pressure on McDonald's, the brand and the company. And some negative sales came through for a little while. McDonald's wasn't a real attractive proposition in 2002-2003 whereas I thought, 'This is a brand forever'."
By 2007, Sidaros had bought his second store, at St Mary's South.
Within a couple of years, he was lured to Canberra, offloading his two Sydney stores to buy four existing stores in Canberra – Gungahlin, Charnwood, Belconnen and Belconnen Food Court. He couldn't keep his Sydney stores and buy into Canberra because "McDonald's don't like the operators to be spread out all over the state. They want it to be locally owned and operated."
Sidaros thought Canberra in 2009 was a land of opportunity, with the then Rudd government's economic stimulus package at its height and the national capital also expanding northwards at a rapid rate.
"I drove around Canberra thinking, 'What's going on?'. There was all this construction everywhere, every corner I turned and I was thinking 'What? Did they forget about Canberra for a long time and all of a sudden they're starting again?' I couldn't believe it.
"Someone said to me, 'No, it's the Labor government. They're just spending and spending and spending.' The forecast growth was phenomenal as well. I was buying in north Canberra and 13 suburbs were still to be built. It was a win-win, I couldn't believe it."
Sidaros gradually added to his McDonald's portfolio over the years, most recently buying the Braddon, Canberra City and Canberra Centre stores last December.
He and his family moved to Canberra purely for the business opportunity. But once here, they loved it and are not likely to leave.
He and Gehan have four sons – Axel, 21, Josh, 19, Jesse, 17, and Jacob. Sidaros is confident at least one of them will move into the McDonald's business.
He has a whole team of management beneath him including an operations manager that oversees the entire business and supervisors who are responsible for four stores each. That's a bit different to even three years ago when he was in the stores every day.
Sidaros, who counts the old-school Quarter Pounder as his favourite McDonald's fare, says he can "still cook a mean burger". He understands McDonald's attracts plenty of negative attention for its food and is not too fazed by that.
"Australia has led the way, with reduced sugar, reduced fat content in the shakes and the sundaes, a whole bunch of stuff. We've introduced salads, you name it, but we keep getting it, we keep copping it and that's fine," he says.
"We are what we are. We're a fast food restaurant. We don't hide from that. It's not something you can eat every day and think you're going to be healthy, that's standard. It's a healthy diet balanced with exercise, that's the way forward. There's no secrets there."
Sidaros sits on the board of the Ronald McDonald House Canberra, providing accommodation for up to 11 families whose seriously ill children are being cared for at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. He is also chairman of the board committee which organises the annual gala ball, the next one on April 2 at the National Convention Centre, the major fundraiser for the year.
"I'm a firm believer in giving back," he says.
"If you're privileged enough to get some opportunities in life, if you can, you should help."
So what motivates him? Surely he could retire comfortably now.
"I get the greatest satisfaction when I'm teaching someone something, when I'm guiding them through life," he says.
"I can influence a lot of young lives and put them on the right road."
So much so that he has approached the ACT government to help put students who are struggling in school, who have almost given up on education, to be placed in one of his McDonald's stores so he can help put them back on track.
"I want to help them show school's important, education is important. It's a bit of a dream, but we'll see," he says.
And about those rings. Some are from family. Three he bought himself to mark his McDonald's achievements. But it says something about him not taking his success for granted that he waited a decade after he bought his first store before buying his first ring.
"Most operators will buy one when they become an operator. I waited 10 years. I thought, 'I've done my hard yards now. I've done enough so I can comfortably wear one and be proud of it.' Not that I couldn't before. It's just that I felt I hard to earn my stripes."
For tickets to the gala ball for the Ronald McDonald House Canberra on April 2, go to rmhcanberra.com.au/