Mc Donald’s: the incredible story behind the largest fast food restaurant in the world

Poster for the movie "The Founder"

Generally, when great success is achieved the secret is always in merit, originality and right choices made at the right time. It is in this way that a story is built, step by step, which for better or for worse always has its happy ending. 

But who would have ever imagined that, unfortunately, the same cannot be said of McDonald’s ?

The great giant of excellence, without a doubt the most famous fast food in the world, has a history behind it full of pitfalls, anything but cheerful and happy . A story that mainly involves three people: the brothers Richard James McDonald and Maurice James McDonald and Ray Kroc, a simple (but not so) representative of blenders. 

Who were the McDonald brothers

Originally from Ireland , after a series of economic and family disasters, as soon as they graduated from high school they decided to travel and try their luck in distant California.

Young in age but strong and mature in spirit, they try in every way to restore dignity to their family, now left poor and jobless. Initially they try to enter the world of cinema, first as directors and then as owners of a cinema near Los Angeles, but then the real enlightenment arrives.

Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers: history of the most famous fast food in the world – Vanilla Magazine

How Mc Donald’s was born

The world of catering had always fascinated them and thanks also to their father’s support , McDonald’s Barbeque was born in 1940 in San Bernardino.

It was a simple drive-in with cars pulling up and food being served in record time by girls whizzing by on skates. After a few years, following customer feedback, the first changes began to be seen: a menu made only of burgers and a totally self-service system, where customers went independently to the catering area to order.

The success comes above all thanks to the truck drivers, who make Mc Donald’s a real meeting place during their work breaks. It is from this moment that they begin to plan the expansion of their premises, starting in particular from California up to Arizona. 

After having opened more than 6 locations, happy and full of enthusiasm, they would never have imagined that within a few months they would start to lose everything.

On this day the 1st McDonald's restaurant opened in San Bernardino, California : pics

Ray Kroc comes in and takes it all

Ray Kroc , representative and salesman of a well-known blender company, is amazed when he notices a request for six blenders for a small restaurant. He decides to visit it in person, finding himself in front of an impeccable assembly line, at the limits of perfection.

We are clearly talking about the restaurant of the two Mc Donald’s brothers, who accept Ray Kroc’s entry into the business for the inauguration of a franchising line. 

Phenomenology of a ruthless founder.  The true story of Ray Kroc, the "father" of McDonald's #startupitalia |  StartupItalia

“That night in my motel room I couldn’t get what I’d seen during the day out of my head. Visions of McDonald’s restaurants on every street corner paraded through my brain .

Ray affirmed, and in 1961 his dream began to come true. 

About 300 McDonald’s locations had been opened, but the two brothers, now exhausted, decided to hand over the entire chain to the newcomer, keeping only the first restaurant in San Bernardino for themselves. 

At this point Ray acquires total control of the brand and, from here, begins the climb towards enormous success.

What happens at Mc Donald’s 

After having obtained full control (or almost), Ray Kroc immediately began to modify the characteristic features of the restaurants, eliminating both the mascot and the arches that distinguished it, while leaving the name unchanged.

The true story of Ray Kroc, that of "The Founder" - The Post

We know that success goes to your head in one way or another, and although business was booming, Ray Kroc’s main objective was to definitively eliminate the two brothers , who were still founders. 

Thus he begins to spread the rumor that he is the real founder, but the coup de grace comes when he also buys the land where the first restaurant stands and builds a new McDonald’s right across the road , thus bringing the two brothers to inevitable failure.

The 1st Mc Donalds in the world was born on Route 66 – TRAVELING TOGETHER
The first McDonald’s in San Bernardino

He purchased their shares for $2.7 million, an extremely substantial sum in 1961 that allowed the two brothers to return to New York and lead the rest of their lives in full luxury.

An understandable choice, certainly, but let’s just try to imagine the fortune they would have made if they had continued to receive a small percentage of the opening of each franchise . The more curious ones made some real estimates, and it emerged that the first contract with Kroc provided that for each franchised restaurant Dick and Maurice would receive 950 dollars, 1.9% on food sales and 0.5 % of total turnover. 

Already after a few years, in 1970, all this would have turned into 15 million dollars a year while in the most recent 2012, according to estimates, it would have reached 305 million every year.

In short, as we said, the first choice is certainly understandable, but equally unwise.

Therefore, fairy-tale stories are not always hidden behind great successes, although it is hard to believe how simple it was for Kroc to manage to take over everything in such a short time. 

This story was the cause of long debates right from the start, so much so that it produced a real film. “ The Founder ”, released at the cinema in 2016. The story is explained here with an extremely compelling narrative and screenplay, capable of leading anyone, step by step, into the fascinating world of Mc Donald’s.

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