Ray Kroc: How He Made McDonald's Sizzle

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Ray Kroc: How He Made McDonald's Sizzle


Ray Kroc was 52, working as a milkshake mixer salesman, when he came across clients Mac and Dick McDonald's hamburger restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif. Amazed by their food assembly line that delivered fast service, Kroc convinced them to franchise the company with his help. The next year, Kroc opened his first McDonald's outside of Chicago. In 1961, Kroc bought the company and built it into what is now the world's largest fast-food chain, with more than 31 thousand restaurants in almost 120 countries. Kroc, who died at 81, was the subject of a SUCCESS cover feature in September 1977 written by his biographer, Robert Anderson. The following is an excerpt.

Kroc, The name rolls energetically off the tongue.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Its Bohemian meaning, I was told by an old cleaning lady, is "step," as in a flight of stairs. Had she known Ray A. Kroc, the multimillionaire founder and senior chairman of McDonald's Corporation as I had come to know him in the 12 months I spent helping him write his autobiography, she too might have found a delightful aptness in the derivation.

For "step" implies a climber, and that describes Ray A. Kroc precisely.

He will be 75 years old in October. One would think he would be most interested in enjoying the fruits of his labors--relaxing in the Jacuzzi at his splendid ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., or traveling around the world in the $4.5 million jet he bought a couple of years ago. But that's not Kroe's style. He likes the Jacuzzis rolling, 100-degree waters, not so much because they are relaxing and feel good on his arthritic joints, but because they stimulate ideas on how to make McDonald's more efficient or more profitable. His jet is leased to the corporation for business use at $1 per year.

In any case, chronological age is a misleading measure with Kroc. He is the oldest active executive in the corporation, but he is probably its youngest thinker. McDonald's president Ed Schmitt believes this is because Kroc invariably takes a positive approach.

"Suppose someone comes up with a proposal that McDonald's should serve turkey sandwiches," Schmitt says. "Everyone on the board of directors can think of nine good reasons why turkey sandwiches would be a bad thing for us. They would blow the idea out of the water immediately. But Ray would say, Wait a minute; let's examine what this might do for us. Maybe we could make it work. …

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