TAMPA, Fla. - It's the only time you will ever see Juan Vazquez waving customers away -- ever.
The brand new McDonald's, located just west of the Bayside Bridge on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, wasn't set to open for another 24 hours.
Vazquez, a longtime McDonald's owner/operator, was helping his son Raphael open the store.
“This is the calm before the storm,” the younger Vazquez said.
The Vazquez family gave us free reign of the restaurant for a few hours. McDonald's recently kicked off a transparency campaign called “Our Food, Your Questions.” And this was our opportunity to see the “Golden Arches” like never before.
First, we discovered that the title “burger flipper” is passé.
Vazquez's restaurant features an automatic grill that simultaneously cooks both sides of the beef patties. From frozen to sizzling, it's a remarkably short time.
“Thirty-eight seconds,” Vazquez said. “That's it.”
Some McDonald's locations boast Internet-enabled kitchen equipment that allows the devices to call for service on their own.
Vazquez said everything is designed with efficiency in mind, minimizing down time.
“That's what we're all about,” he said.
The computers are reliable. But the fast food business still requires workers.
90 PEOPLE, 60 SECONDS
Vazquez surprised me when he revealed how many people he's hiring.
"This particular location, we're going to open up with about 90 employees," he said.
Vazquez challenges them to deliver customers' orders within one minute.
“Sixty seconds,” he said. “Absolutely.”
I tried my hand at making the Big Mac in one minute flat -- and failed.
For me to stack two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun (not in that order, by the way), took me 1:16 on the first try and 1:14 on the second try.
I crashed and burned, twice.
Looking at my poorly constructed Big Mac, I moaned.
“That is not compliant,” I said.
Off camera, the regional field service manager grimaced in agreement.
Despite my failure, I learned something interesting. The table where sandwiches are constructed is called the Hot Landing Zone -- operative word “hot.”
Vazquez showed me that the stainless steel table is heated to about 125 degrees in order to keep the sandwiches warm.
“Hot to the touch,” he said.
Just about that time, a shimmering red semi rounded the drive-through lanes, and the temperature dropped.
For the next 20 minutes, employees unloaded all kinds of boxes from the refrigerated trailer -- everything from hamburger boxes to garbage bags emerged in a cloud of condensation. Also in the frosty fog: a bumper crop of frozen buns.
FRESH (FROZEN) BUNS
“It's crazy, isn't it,” asked Jack Mitchell, who oversees the massive bakery that supplies McDonald's buns.
In an unassuming white building outside Orlando, Turano Florida Bun LLC quietly cranks out an incredible 1.5 million McDonald's buns each day, very day.
"Essentially, it's a thousand pieces a minute," said Giancarlo Turano II, whose family began baking in Chicago in 1962.
LINK: Turano history
Turano's staff seemed to welcome the new McDonald's transparency campaign, and our cameras.
"We wanted the world to see it,” Turano said. “We're proud of it."
A couple times a week, an 18-wheel tanker delivers flour to Turano. It pumps through a maze of stainless steel pipe to emerge as a golden brown bun just two hours later.
The conveyor oven leads to a massive rotating cooling tower, the centerpiece of the plant. At three stories tall, it gently spins a mesmerizing tower of hamburger buns.
And it never stops.
"We operate 24/7," Turano said.
The process is precise, too. For example, Mitchell confidently declared that each Big Mac bun contains 360 sesame seeds.
"If you were to count [the seeds on the bun], I guarantee you'd be plus or minus a seed," he said. "And I'm sticking to that."
As soon as the buns pass a laser-guided quality assurance exam, they are wrapped up and immediately shot through a giant metal door. That's the freezer.
It's under the same roof, but the giant icebox is actually part of the Martin Brower Company, the McDonald's delivery gurus.
"It's right arm, left arm," Turano said.
REFRIGERATED NERVE CENTER
Martin Brower's slice of the building is gaping.
"It's a 150,000 square foot facility," said Martin Brower's Jay Trottier. “It's a machine.”
Trottier showed us that everything a McDonald's location needs is stocked here. It's shipped in from 26 different states, then quickly out to more than 400 restaurants.
The back wall is stacked sky high with French fries. Trottier said the supply totaled about 2.5 million pounds. Although the number sounds staggering, Trottier explained that all those fries would probably be gone inside of 72 hours.
"On average, our inventory will turn two to three times a week," he said.
A Martin Brower truck delivered to the new store on Gulf-to-Bay. We were there for the first of what will be many, many more deliveries -- probably every three or four days.
And it's that way at every McDonald's you see.
"We'll drive three million miles a year," Trottier said. "There's no system better than the McDonald's system."
The elder Vazquez, the one waving people away from the not-yet-open store, described this constant cycle with a term that's become the vernacular for McDonald's insiders.
“It's a three-legged stool,” he said. “That's what we call it.”
Suppliers are one leg; owner/operators are the second, and corporate is the third.
“Its works,” Vazquez said, cheerfully. “Because we are all working together.”