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Cheryl Hall:

Ed Bailey (photo) ranks right up there with restaurant icon Norman Brinker when it comes to influencing how Dallas grabs a bite to eat. Yet you’ve probably never heard of him. Over the past 22 years, Mr. Bailey has silently amassed a small empire of 61 McDonald’s in our market to become one of the most successful franchisees in the world.

Every day, he serves more than 115,000 customers, which, by my calculations, amounts to about $135 million in annual sales. He achieved these heights by going upscale in a no-frills fast-food world. His restaurants have such touches as Austrian crystal chandeliers, Ralph Lauren wallpaper, granite floors, mahogany booths and incandescent lighting. His play areas are kiddie fantasylands.

His McDonald’s at Montfort Drive and LBJ Freeway was built in the form of the world’s largest Happy Meal, adorned with gigantic sculptures of Ronald, Big Macs, french fries and Cokes. The Travel Channel lists it as one of the 10 most unique McDonald’s out of 30,000 worldwide. ‘My vision is to create an adult ambience that works well with kids so the whole family can enjoy the experience,’ says the 60-year-old former men’s clothier. ‘People want to eat in a nice place, even when it’s McDonald’s.’

Remarkably children account for only 20% of McDonald’s business. ‘Kids love us, but we have to retain them as they get older,’ Mr. Bailey says. ‘That’s the challenge.’ The dapper Mr. Bailey, who favors Ralph Lauren suits, Brioni ties and Charvet shirts, doesn’t look like someone who feasts daily on Egg McMuffins, but he swears he does. Get to know his strategy…