BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The ingredients in a McDonald’s cheeseburger might look pretty simple. Bun, meat, cheese, pickle, secret sauce. But as Margaret Ward might tell you, as she’s learned from her 25 years at one particular McDonalds restaurant, a lot more goes into it than just the obvious ingredients.

Things like enthusiasm, gratitude and plain, simple friendliness. Ward has been selling the world’s most famous hamburgers since the last century and at the same McDonalds – White Lane, just west of the 99 freeway in south Bakersfield. Nearing 70, the McDonalds grandma works happily alongside people nearly one-quarter her age.

“This job keeps me young,” Ward said. “Keeps me young at heart. And for 70, I’m OK. I’m pretty healthy for 70, and it’s this job that does it.”

And her customers love her for it, even sometimes the grouchy ones.

“One lady used to come in, she’s all grouchy to everybody,” Ward said. “But – she came in once or twice a day – always just really mean. So I got to talking to her, you know, every day. Now she’s really nice to me. I won her over. Took me like a month, but I won her over.”

She’s won over her coworkers too. Margaret Olaya, who, like Margaret Ward, is a swing manager, is 17 years old.

“She’s always cracking jokes on her shift,” she said. “She’s always kind of encouraging everyone in a joking manner.”

Much of how McDonalds prepares food is, in the name of speed and freshness, automated. But digital technology will never replace the Margaret Wards of the world. And regular customers know it.

“I will even go to, like, a Walmart (and hear), ‘Oh, Margaret, oh hi!’ People (know I’ve been) working here so many years. Or (they’ll shout), ‘You’re the drive-thru lady, hi!’”

Businesses across the country, especially food service, have had a tough time filling and keeping employees in this challenging post-pandemic environment. So, reliable employees are valuable enough as it is. But someone who grasps the importance of a cheery disposition and customer-first attitude? That’s gold.

People come to this McDonalds not just for the food, they come to this McDonalds for the smile as well, and Margaret Ward has been passing those out for a quarter of a century.