Felix Becerra, 42, of Oakland confessed to both holdups, but was already a suspect in the Pimlico Drive robbery, according to Pleasanton Police Sgt. Kurt Schlehuber.
"He was identified as a suspect in the early stages of the investigation," Schlehuber said.
He said police were actively working to locate him when they found he'd been arrested in the San Mateo robbery, just days later.
"He had been arrested shortly after the robbery here in town. Once we identified him as a suspect, we were trying to find him," Schlehuber said. "He told our detectives that he only makes 8-something an hour and needed money, (that) he was trying to support his family."
In both cases, a suspect entered the restaurant and brandished a small caliber revolver.
In the local case, the man entered the store at about 3 a.m., wearing white cloth gloves and a white, full-face mask. He forced three employees into the office and demanded they open the safe, took cash, then ordered them into the store's freezer, telling them not to come out for 30 minutes. No one was hurt, and an undisclosed amount of cash was taken.
The San Mateo holdup took place at about 10:34 p.m. Sept. 2. As in the first case, the man pointed a gun at employees and ordered them into the freezer. He held the manager at gunpoint, forced him to open the cash register, and fled in a dark-colored PC Cruiser.
"He was wearing a white bag over his face in the San Mateo case," Schelhuber said.
Becerra was caught shortly after the holdup at the Laurelwood Shopping Center McDonald's in the 1200 block of W. Hillsdale Boulevard through quick work by police there. They got a description of the suspect and his car, and Becerra was captured after a San Mateo police officer spotted the PC Cruiser as it headed toward the San Mateo Bridge.
"Based on the suspect being described as armed with a handgun. SMPD followed the vehicle and gathered additional support for a high risk traffic stop," a news release from the San Mateo Police Department said. "The vehicle was stopped on US 880 in San Leandro."
In the stop, police seized the stolen cash, the clothing worn by the suspect -- a backpack and hoodie-- and a replica handgun.
Becerra is being held at the San Mateo County Jail. Criminal charges will be sought through the Alameda County District Attorney's office against him for the Pleasanton robbery.