LEWISBURG — Even as more and more fast food restaurants are including healthy options on their menus, the owners of several highly successful MacDonald’s franchise stores in the Valley are rolling out an employee incentive program that includes a wellness aspect geared towards stopping smoking.

The program, called "Vow to Wow" encourages everyone, employees and managers, to be more attentive to customers. "The idea is to react positively to any complaints we might get. After all, this is a very customer-centric business," said Jason Rippon, who along with his father Thus, is affiliated with seven MacDonald restaurants in the Valley, including Lewisburg and Mifflinburg"

The idea is that at the end of each 30 day period with no customer complaints, a raffle will be held and valuable prizes given away. Each employee gets one entry. But if a customer gives out a specific name and positive comment, the employee gets five entries. Most recently, laptops were given to employees Brandon Showers, a Jr. at Milton and Shalyssa Walter, a Jr. at Mifflinburg High School.

"These are good rewards, particularly for kids who want to further their education," Rippon said. "It also says, hey, MacDonald’s is a cool place to be, not just another job."

Rippon is establishing a peer-to-peer recognition program, where employees can recognize and reward their colleagues for work well done.

An Archway to Opportunity program is a way for employees to earn a high school diploma. The Rippons also have a book subsidy program for employees.

And Jason is firmly committed to a stop smoking campaign within his stores. "I used to smoke but I stopped. There are a lot of smokers in the restaurant business. One comment we get is when customers notice employees outside of the store smoking and it turns them off. I will help any of our employees quit smoking," he said. And he will pay for nicotine patch or gum.

As for wellness, Rippon will pay for a his Mifflinburg employee’s YMCA membership in Milton — similar benefits will roll out for his other stores in time.

Engaged, excited employees inevitably lead to better customer relations and sales.

Welcome to the 21st Century MacDonald’s, and Jason is on the cutting edge.

The Rippon family have owned MacDonald franchises in central Pennsylvania since 1973, when their first restaurant opened in Shamokin.

Thom and Jim Rippon, both from Hershey, started as partners. They were looking to start a business, either the International House of Pancakes or MacDonald’s. They were looking for an opportunity to franchise.

Ray Kroc at that time made the franchising decisions and he chose Jim Rippon as an equity partner and Thom came in after leaving the service.

The Shamokin MacDonald’s was the first in the area, it was gangbusters. Then they opened a second store in Shamokin Dam and then Lewisburg.

Jason started working in the family business at 14.

"I guess I have ketchup in my veins, as founder Ray Kroc might have said," Jason said.

Send comments to rdandes@dailyitem.com. Follow Dandes on Twitter @rdandes.