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The Ray Kroc Story

“If I had a brick for every time I’ve repeated the phrase Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value, I think I’d probably be able to bridge the Atlantic Ocean with them.” —Ray Kroc

How do you create a restaurant business and become an overnight success at the age of 52? As Ray Kroc said, “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.”

Origins In 1917, 15-year-old Ray Kroc lied about his age to join the Red Cross as an ambulance driver, but the war ended before he completed his training. He then worked as a piano player, a paper cup salesman and a Multi-mixer salesman.

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In 1954, he visited a restaurant in San Bernardino, California that had purchased several Multi-mixers. There he found a small but successful restaurant run by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, and was stunned by the effectiveness of their operation. They produced a limited menu, concentrating on just a few items—burgers, fries and beverages—which allowed them to focus on quality and quick service.

Kroc pitched his vision of creating McDonald’s restaurants all over the U.S. to the brothers. In 1955, he founded McDonald’s System, Inc., a predecessor of the McDonald’s Corporation, and six years later bought the exclusive rights to the McDonald’s name. By 1958, McDonald’s had sold its 100 millionth hamburger.

A Unique Philosophy Ray Kroc wanted to build a restaurant system that would be famous for providing food of consistently high quality and uniform methods of preparation. He wanted to serve burgers, buns, fries and beverages that tasted just the same in Alaska as they did in Alabama.

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To achieve this, he chose a unique path: persuading both franchisees and suppliers to buy into his vision, working not for McDonald’s but for themselves, together with McDonald’s. He promoted the slogan, “In business for yourself, but not by yourself.” His philosophy was based on the simple principle of a 3-legged stool: one leg was McDonald’s franchisees; the second, McDonald’s suppliers; and the third, McDonald’s employees. The stool was only as strong as the three legs that formed its foundation.

System FirstFirst and foremost, Kroc advocated adherence to the system approach. So while many of McDonald’s most famous menu items — like the Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish and the Egg McMuffin — were created by franchisees, the McDonald’s operating system required franchisees to follow the core McDonald’s principles of quality, service, cleanliness and value.

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The Roots of Quality McDonald’s passion for quality meant that every single ingredient was tested, tasted and perfected to fit the operating system. As restaurants boomed, the massive volume of orders caught the attention of suppliers. Kroc shared his vision of McDonald’s future with potential suppliers and they agreed to supply the nascent organization with product that met McDonald’s prescribed standards. As other quick service restaurants began to follow, McDonald’s high standards rippled through the meat, produce and dairy industries. Again, Ray Kroc was looking for a partnership, and he managed to create the most integrated, efficient and innovative supply system in the food service industry. These supplier relationships have flourished over the decades; in fact, many McDonald’s suppliers operating today first started business with a handshake from Ray Kroc.

Hamburger University In 1961, Kroc launched a training program, later called Hamburger University, at a new restaurant in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. There, franchisees and operators were trained on the proper methods for running a successful McDonald’s restaurant. Hamburger U. also had a research and development laboratory to develop new cooking, freezing, storing and serving methods. Today, more than 80,000 people have graduated from the program.

The Legend Lives On Right up until he died on January 14, 1984, Ray Kroc never stopped working for McDonald’s. His legacy continues to this day as the system provides McDonald’s customers with great tasting, affordable food; crew and franchisees with opportunities for growth; and suppliers with a shared commitment to provide the highest quality ingredients and products.

From his passion for innovation and efficiency, to his relentless pursuit of quality, to his many charitable contributions, Ray Kroc’s legacy continues to be an inspirational and integral part of McDonald’s – today and into the future.

Sources

Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonald’s by Ray A. Kroc, ©Ray A. Kroc 1977.
McDonalds: Behind the Golden Arches by John F. Love ©John F. Love 1995.
aboutmcdonalds.com 2009.