McDonald’s Ray Kroc

How Ray Kroc created the world-famous, golden-arched fast food franchise

McDonald’s is everyone’s favourite villain these days. Environmentalists, health campaigners, children’s watchdogs – they all hate it. But entrepreneurs can ill-afford to ignore a company with a brand recognised the world over that’s credited with changing the way the planet eats.

Ray Kroc spent most of his life selling milkshake mixers, and it was through this that he came across the McDonald brothers’ small Californian restaurant chain. With its lightning quick service and Henry Ford-style production values, it was faster and cheaper than all of its competitors. Customers loved it too, as the queues testified. Kroc knew this was the future and, using his formidable selling skills, he persuaded the brothers to license him their name.

Kroc set about selling franchises across America, but the McDonalds lacked his ambition. So in 1961, Kroc bought them out for $2.7m – to this day it is one of the finest bargains of all time. By 1963, the chain had sold one billion burgers and went public two years later, remaining an investors’ favourite for years.

Kroc demanded high standards from all involved and chose franchisees personally, looking for those who were good with people. He also aimed to perfect his products, setting up a laboratory to create perfect French fries. But the going wasn’t always good. Despite huge footfall and turnover, McDonald’s initially struggled to make a profit. Kroc responded by buying the land on which the restaurants stood and renting it back to the store manager.

As a result of Kroc’s perfectionism, by the time of his death in 1984, McDonald’s was the undisputed global leader in fast food.

Factfile: Born: October 5, 1902 Died: January 14, 1984 Business career: Trained as an army ambulance driver, then sold paper cups before joining Prince Multimixers, where he worked for 30 years before joining McDonald’s in 1954 Tell me something I didn’t know: He lied about his age to join the US Army and wanted to fight in World War One, only narrowly missing out


(will not be published)