McDonald's is, without question, the most successful, popular, and influential fast-food restaurant chain in recorded history. McDonald's now has 35,000 different locations spanning the globe. Fifty-eight million people dine on McDonald's chow and drink every day. That's 58 million daily consuming their Big Macs, fries, cokes, fish sandwiches, Happy Meals, milkshakes, etc.
The name most commonly associated with McDonald's is definitely Ray Kroc. Kroc was the Chicago entrepreneur who founded the McDonald's corporation, but to suggest Kroc created McDonald's is, well, a crock. (Sorry about that one!)
As is sometimes the case with amazingly successful businesses, the early part of the McDonald's story includes the people who came up with the idea and the person who figured out how to sell the idea to the rest of the world. Ray Kroc was most certainly the latter.
In the early 1950's, Kroc was contentedly employed selling milkshake machines. One of his best clients was a chain of restaurants in southern California run by a pair of brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald.
Born in New Hampshire, the McDonald brothers moved to California in the 1920s and got into the restaurant business in the late 1930's. They opened a hot dog stand in Arcadia. (That's right folks, the original McDonald's restaurant served hot dogs, not burgers!)
In 1940, they opened McDonald's Barbeque Restaurant in San Bernardino. It did great, but more importantly it taught the brothers some important lessons about the fast-food service industry. The McDonald brothers shut down the restaurant for three months in 1948 to re-tool it.
With a slimmed-down menu and an emphasis on serving the chow as quickly and as cheaply as possible, the highly-mechanized drive-in began churning out 15-cent hamburgers with unprecedented speed. By 1954, the McDonald brothers were operating nine outlets and had sold 21 franchises.
Two legends were already in place- the golden arches and the running tally of how many hamburgers had been sold. (Dick and Mac McDonald had originated the golden arches in 1953, wanting an attractive and appealing hallmark for their restaurants.)
It was then that Ray Kroc came calling. He convinced the McDonald brothers to hire him as their agent. Kroc founded his own corporation soon after and opened his first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, on April 15, 1955.
Within five years, McDonald's had opened 100 franchises and sold more than 100,000,000 hamburgers. McDonald's was growing by leaps and bounds, and not only in America. The popular chain soon went international with franchises opening (in order) in Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, France, El Salvador, and Sweden.
In 1961, Kroc bought the business from the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million dollars. But they lent their name to one of the most identifiable corporate brands on the planet. And few people realize that behind that name stand men who revolutionized food service as radically as Henry Ford revolutionized the production of cars.
(Image credit: Bruce Marlin)