Kroc, founder of the McDonald’s Corporation, and once referred to by Harvard Business School as “the service sector’s equivalent of Henry Ford”, was born in Illinois in 1902.
Lying about his age, to enlist as a Red Cross ambulance driver in 1917, he never got the chance to serve.
A gifted piano player, he joined the Tulip Cup Company in 1922, selling cups by day and playing piano on the radio at night.
Becoming Tulip’s Midwest sales manager, Kroc acquired the exclusive rights to a new “multimixer” milkshake machine, promoting it across the United States.
Kroc learnt a great deal about catering management during his travels. In 1954, he visited one of his clients in Bernardino, a restaurant owned by two McDonald brothers. Amazed by the stream-lined operation, he set up nationwide franchises for the brothers.
Opening his first McDonalds outside Chicago in 1955, he developed the firm’s no-frills approach. Expanding widely, he bought out the McDonald brothers in 1961, for $2.7 m.
It was a bargain, as McDonald’s grew exponentially, becoming one of the world’s most recognisable brands. By 1963, Kroc’s firm had sold three billion burgers, opened its 500th store, and, in a somewhat cynical attempt to target children, chosen Ronald McDonald as the icon of the firm. By 1965, the clown was more familiar to US children than the President.
Opening its 1,000th restaurant in 1968, in 1971 Kroc moved the firm into Europe.
Creating an enterprise of thousands of almost identical franchises throughout the globe, Kroc was respected in the business community for his high standards and effective leadership.
Named American of the Year in 1973, in later life Kroc focused on the world of sports and charities, buying out the San Diego Padres in 1974.
After his death in 1984, the firm’s fortunes began to wane, a victim of tedium within his own country and anti-American hatred throughout the world. Recent concerns about the nutritional value of McDonalds products have led to the launch of a calorie conscious salad range.