They are everywhere! From downtown Chicago to a rural town in Nebraska, fast-food restaurants have become a trademark of how Americans live today. Hurrying to make time for an afternoon appointment, a woman decides to make a short stop for lunch. Pulling her sports utility vehicle up to the window, she quickly grabs a delicious meal for a small price. But where did the idea come from? In the small town of San Bernadino, California, during the fifties, a young man named Ray Kroc had an idea that would drastically revolutionize the food industry with the efficient use of a multimixer, new ideas, and incredible entrepreneurship, the McDonalds corporation began a remarkable empire in the American and worldwide fast-food industry.
Ray Kroc began his working career the same as most others do by finding a solid job with a steady cash flow, and hope of promotion. Determined to find work for his future wife’s hand in marriage, Ray quickly became a salesmen for a Lily cup industry. Unfortunately for Ray, it didn’t start off in the way that he thought it would. Struggling to support his wife and newborn baby under low pay, Ray would also play piano part time to earn extra money. While working for the chance of a promotion, he worked hard in his job going from place to place selling papercup products. It was in these early business days that Ray first showed a sign of his talent in economic ideas. He had an idea to modify a paper cup in that it could be formed in a way which kept the cup more durable. The cup’s name was rightfully called the “One in a Million,” and the introduction of this new product took off like a barn fire and boosted sales dramatically in a stagnant industry. The intelligent business decisions made by Ray were incredible. He advised the head of the company to raise the price of the new cup by two cents. Instead of selling at ten cents, the cup sold at twelve which made the boss an extra one hundred thousand dollars. With this invention by Ray Kroc, new ideas were stimulated and more inventions were created. The invention of the multimixer, by Earl Prince, was a five spindled milkshake machine that Ray believed had tremendous potential.
When Earl Prince found out about Ray Kroc’s business and selling tactics, he instantly proposed that Ray leave the Lily Tulip company and go into business with him. Ray would sell the inventions he came up with and would become the sole agent for selling multimixers in the country. After much deliberation with his wife Ethel, Ray resigned from the Lily Cup administration and risked it all by becoming the exclusive sales agent for the Prince’s multimixer company.
Selling the multimixer was a painful process. Ray would go back and forth from city to city attempting to sell a product to stubborn customers. As he struggled to make a profit and pay off debts, he quickly found himself one hundred thousand dollars in debt. Instead of giving up, Ray Kroc used the setback as an opportunity to “grind it out.” Fortunately for Kroc, a multi-million dollar idea was right around the corner.
As Ray moved from customer to customer he continued receiving similar statements. Whether it was from a restaurant operator in Arizona or a dairy bar manager in Washington DC the message was always the same, “I want one of those mixers of yours like the McDonalds brothers have in San Bernadino”(Kroc 6). The more he heard about these notorious McDonald brothers, the more curious he became about them and why customers were picking up on their multimixers even though there were many mixers in stores all over. Researching about the two brothers, Ray made an astonishing discovery. He found that instead of having one or two multimixers at the most, the brothers had eight! Remembering that discovery Ray explains, “The mental picture of eight multimixers churning out forty shakes at one time was just too much to be believed. These mixers sold at $150 apiece, mind you, and that was back in 1954. The fact that this was taking place in San Bernadino, which was a quiet town in those days, practically in the desert, made it all the more amazing”(Kroc 7). Overwhelmed with this startling discovery, Ray Kroc would go on the most important business trip of his life.
At first sight of the first McDonalds restaurant, Ray was not to terrifically impressed. The store appeared as any other Drive-in. It had an octagonal shape and rested on a two hundred square foot lot. As opening time approached, he parked his car and watched as the magic started to happen. The workers pulled carts full of potatoes, meat, milk, soft drinks, and buns. As opening time drew nearer and nearer, the pace of their worked quickly sped up until an insane pace was established! Then the cars began to arrive as lines started to form. In a short amount of time, customers would march up to the front of the line and then quickly back again. Suddenly the thought of the eight multimixers became more and more reasonable. Stunned of what was happening, Ray got out of his car and went in line. In the line he noticed many different types of people from the richest lawyer to a construction worker. They all seemed to be well pleased with the service. Listening to a small conversation between two people in line, he understood why people were pleased. One man exclaimed, “You get the best hamburger you ever ate for fifteen cents, and you don’t have to wait and mess around tipping waitresses”(Kroc 27). The other responded, “I come here every day. It sure beats the old lady’s cold meat-loaf sandwiches”(Kroc 28). Yet another woman in a car told Ray that she would come by everyday. Suddenly understanding the potential of this small time drive-in in the middle of nowhere that was attracting large amounts of business, Ray scheduled a meeting to strike a deal that would change the history of the food industry.
The two brothers Dick and Mac McDonald easily warmed up with the multimixer salesmen. Ray talked about his dream of having McDonalds restaurants open on street corners around the country and what a gold mine this could be. The two brothers sat in complete silence not understanding what Ray was saying. In reality the two men were content with their present lifestyle of living in a peaceful community with not much money. Fortunately for Ray the McDonalds brothers offered Ray a chance to open more stores and he jumped at the opportunity. Over the next few years, Ray began opening more and more stores as the company increased in size. No matter how many stores were put up around the country, quality was always the main concern. The most important aspect to the business was to make a profit in more ways than just money. To Ray a smile on the face of a happy customer was worth more than money in his pocket. With this standard objective in mind, more people would come to clean McDonalds restaurants without having to worry about unsanitary conditions. After five years of a successful business, the McDonalds corporation had over two-hundred restaurants around the country making an annual profit of over thirty-seven million dollars. After a standard was set, Ray continued to be profitable by meeting the demands of a changing society. Ray commented on all his success by saying, “Everything seems to be coming up roses. I’ll be able to tell you more Manana…Manana…”(Kroc 207).At age fifty-two, Ray Kroc took an idea of the McDonalds brothers, and opened his first franchise. Within a decade he became a millionaire and his journey is a classic success story. Sadly, after thirty years of working for his own company, Ray died of heart failure on January 14, 1984. During 1983, the system wide sales of over four thousand restaurants accumulated almost nine billion dollars in sales. And in December of that year Ray was saluted as one of fifty individuals who had made the greatest contribution to the American way of life in the twentieth century. The West Coast Reviews of books writes, “Few entrepreneurs can claim to have actually changed the way we live, but Ray Kroc is one of them. His revolutions in food service automation, franchising, shared national training, and advertising have earned him a place beside the men who founded not merely businesses but entire new industries.” Ray Kroc’s influential life not only provided work for millions, but changed the life of billions.