Meet the Houston woman who invented the McDonald’s breakfast burrito

HOUSTON – A Houston entrepreneur shared her story of triumph and achievement on KPRC 2+ Thursday.

Nelly Quijano is a Cuban immigrant and an accomplished McDonald’s owner/operator in the Houston area.

Quijano’s journey began as a 13-year-old Cuban immigrant when Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959. At 15, Quijano said she was sent to America alone as part of Operation Peter Pan, leaving her family behind. Upon arriving in the United States, Nelly faced many challenges as she worked several jobs to take care of herself and pursue her dreams.

Quijano said she embraced entrepreneurship with her husband Dominic after a fire destroyed their knitting mill, leading them to McDonald’s ownership. Their journey with McDonald’s took them from New York to Detroit and finally to Houston, where she said she felt a sense of community.

Not only did the couple’s franchise grow in Houston, but they also created a menu item that has become a favorite for many-- the McDonald’s Breakfast Burrito. She owns 30 McDonald’s franchises throughout the city.

“When we moved to Houston, it was kind of a culture shock. We didn’t know that everybody here used hot sauce for breakfast,” Quijano said.

She said their first Saturday, her husband came back with a case of hot sauce. From there, the couple went to McDonald’s to see if they could start the breakfast burrito. The item was launched nationally in 1989.

“We couldn’t believe there was nothing on our menu for the Hispanic community here,” Quijano said.

In an interview with KPRC 2′s Amy Davis, Quijano said she currently employs 1,600 people in the Houston area. Her message to those who have a dream is, “It can be done.”

“Set your goals, run for it, and just anything you want in life, you can get it done,” she told Davis.

Quijano also co-founded the HACER scholarship in 1985, a program that has since awarded $32.5 million to over 17,000 Hispanic college students, helping them achieve their educational dreams.

“HACER is my passion,” she said. “That year, we only had $500 to give out in scholarships and we figured it’s not big money but at least you can get some books for some children that really need it, and then after that, it grew. We did it locally and then national, we have 30 scholarships right now.”

Quijano said applications go out in the fall.

About the Author:

Prairie View A&M University graduate with a master’s degree in Digital Media Studies from Sam Houston State. Delta woman. Proud aunt. Lover of the color purple. 💜