Fast Food’s Founding Father
“One World: One Taste”. This McDonald’s slogan emerges from an ambitious corporate vision of dominating the global fast food market.
The golden arches of the red and yellow restaurants now bestride the globe, or “McWorld”, and excite both enmity and admiration from the foes and friends of capitalism.
It all began quite humbly nearly fifty years ago when a salesman got excited by his visit to a California burger bar.
Ray Kroc was 52 years old, and he had been selling paper cups, and then milk-shake mixers, for over 30 years. He was a driven man, obsessed by detail, ruthless in his ambition to get on.
In San Bernardino, California in 1954, he saw the McDonald brothers’ hamburger restaurant selling tasty food to big queues, and he had a vision of its endless possibilities.
Ray Kroc was attracted by the cleanliness, simplicity, efficiency and profitability of the McDonald brothers’ operation. They had stripped fast food delivery down to its essence, eliminating choices and needless efforts (no waitresses, no china) in order to make a swift assembly line for a meal at reasonable prices: 15 cents for a burger, ten cents for fries, and ten cents for a soft drink.
The McDonalds applied automation to food, just as Henry Ford had to car-manufacture.
Ray Kroc instinctively liked the friendly Scottish sound of their name and the golden arches in their restaurant. He struck a deal with the McDonald brothers to buy locations and franchise their restaurants all over the country, guaranteeing uniform quality, service, cleanliness and value.
Later, Kroc and the McDonald brothers quarrelled, and Kroc brought the brothers out for US$2.7 million. When they would not sell him the original San Bernardino restaurant, now renamed The Big M, Kroc opened a McDonald’s across the road, and drove them out of business.
The first McDonald’s opened in Des Plaines, Illinois in June 1955. In five years there were 200 restaurants. After ten years the company went public, and the share price doubled to $50.00 in the first month. By 1995 there were over 18,000 restaurants worldwide.
In 1996, McDonalds signed a ten year global marketing agreement with the Walt Disney Company to promote and help each other. Coincidentally, Ray Kroc and Walt Disney first met in an Army camp in Connecticut in 1918, when both were unknown visionaries.
Xerox took 63 years to make its first billion dollars; IBM took 46 years. But the McDonald’s Corporation managed to surpass one billion dollars in total revenue in just 22 years. The perfectionist Ray Kroc was the driving force behind it.
The largest fast food corporation in the world now has over 30,000 franchise outlets in 121 countries, and serves about 46 million people a day. It has become a symbol of the American way of life.
When McDonald’s Pushkin Square opened in the heart of Moscow on January 31, 1990, it broke all opening day records for customers served, and is still the busiest branch in the world. The former Soviet Union now has 79 restaurants.
The largest McDonald’s in the world opened in 1992 in Beijing, and there are over 400 McDonald’s in China.
It was once suggested by a journalist, who called it “the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention”, that no two countries with branches of McDonalds had gone to war. That record was broken in 1999 when US and NATO planes bombed Serbia, which had seven McDonald’s restaurants.
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