Raymond Kroc (1902 – 1984) was an American businessman best known for turning McDonald’s into the most successful international fast-food chain in the world. He was a larger-than-life personality, who reputedly “either enchanted or antagonized everyone he met.”
Let’s have a look at the top 10 most interesting facts about Ray Kroc.
Ray Kroc Facts
1. Kroc was born in Chicago.
Ray Kroc was born to parents of Czech origin, on October 5, 1902, in Illinois, near Chicago. At 15 years, he lied about his age, enlisted, and became a Red Cross ambulance driver, an interesting fact about Ray Kroc. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was alongside Walt Disney. He later used this connection in 1954, when he tried to persuade Disney to place a McDonalds in his theme park. It didn’t happen until 1990.
2. He was NOT the founder of McDonald’s.
Richard and Maurice McDonald (brothers) founded McDonald’s as a drive-in barbecue and burger restaurant in 1937 in California. It was successful until after the war when people started demanding faster service. So, they shut it and reopened in 1948 with a reduced menu that enabled them to serve food much faster. After Ray Kroc bought the brothers out, he started referring to himself as the founder of the company, and his own franchise as the first outlet. But the McDonalds brothers had already franchised the business and had opened eight restaurants before Kroc joined them. The famous McDonalds arches were also the brothers’ idea.
3. The McDonald brothers met Ray Kroc when he sold them milkshake machines.
After serving in World War I, Kroc returned home and became a piano player. But he didn’t like the hours required, and after he married, he started a career in sales. For 17 years, he sold paper cups for the Lily Tulip Cup Company. An interesting fact about Ray Kroc is that he was working as a traveling milkshake machine salesman when he met the McDonald brothers, who ordered eight milkshake machines. They were impressed with his aggressive sales techniques, and he was impressed by the pricing and speed that the brothers achieved by limiting their menu to burgers, fries, and shakes. He joined the company as a franchise agent in 1954, for a small return of the profits.
4. Kroc believed the real profits lay in land, not burgers.
In 1955, on the advice of Harry Sonnenberg, Kroc founded the Franchise Realty Corporation. The company bought or leased the land the franchises were built on and charged the franchisees rental with a share of sales above a fixed amount. The “Sonnenberg model” is still in use today, and real estate represents 99% of the company’s assets and accounts for 37% of its revenue. Kroc appointed Sonnenberg as president and chief executive officer in 1959. But he resigned in 1967 when Kroc refused to heed his advice to slow down growth in light of the impending depression.
5. His contribution to McDonald’s was the standardization of the food and outlets.
Kroc is often attributed with introducing the limited menu and streamlined preparation of food to McDonald’s. However, he confirmed that that was all in place at the time he joined the company. His talent lay in ensuring the standardization of the franchises. It was the norm at the time for large areas to be acquired by franchisees, but Kroc saw value in allowing individual stores to be franchised. Small franchisees permitted him to keep control of the consistency of food preparation, standards of hygiene, customer service, store furnishing, etc. He disallowed pinball and cigarette machines and kept stores to suburban locations. In this way, he avoided them becoming biker gang hangouts as a lot of other hamburger restaurants inevitability became.
6. There is a Hamburger University, and Ray Kroc established it.
To ensure consistent standards across the chain, Kroc created a training facility in Chicago called the Hamburger University. There employees and franchisees could certify in “hamburgerology with a minor in French fries.” Today there are Hamburger Universities all over the world, and more than a quarter-million students have graduated.
7. He eventually bought out the McDonald brothers.
Kroc grew frustrated with the McDonald brother’s hesitation to expand, and in 1961 purchased their shares in the business. An interesting fact about Ray Kroc is that he paid the brothers $2.7 million, giving them $1 million after-tax. Kroc was furious to find out they had excluded their original San Bernardino store. He forced them to change the name and opened a McDonald’s next door. It is also rumored that he reneged on a handshake agreement to continue to pay them royalties of 0.5%. But neither of the brothers every publicly alluded to this. In the same year, Kroc and his first wife, Ethel, were divorced. He gave her almost everything in the settlement, except his McDonald’s shares.
8. Kroc was accused of influencing President Nixon’s veto of a minimum wage bill.
In 1972, Ray Kroc contributed $255,000 to President Nixon’s campaign. The president went on to veto a minimum wage bill that included a minimum wage for teenagers, McDonald’s primary workforce. Critics dubbed the action the “McDonald’s veto,” claiming Kroc had influenced Nixon. Kroc vehemently denied any involvement.
9. He wrote a book.
In 1977, Kroc’s autobiography, “Grinding it Out” was published. It was co-authored with Robert Anderson and was re-published in 2016.
10. The San Diego Padres can thank Ray Kroc for the team remaining in San Diego.
Kroc was born and raised in Chicago and was a lifelong baseball fan. He once tried to buy the Chicago Cubs baseball team but failed. Then in 1974, after he retired from running McDonald’s, he heard that the San Diego Padres were for sale. He is rumored to have paid $10,100,000 for the team and saved them from being transferred to Washington by another prospective buyer. He owned the team to his death.
Few people can be said to have changed the way we live, but Ray Kroc changed the way Americans ate, and then went on to change the world. Many others followed in his footsteps, but none were as successful.
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