The Birth Of A True Fast Food Franchise?




I can remember in the mid 1960s a friend of my  parents wanted a McDonalds franchise.

Among the qualifications was to get into a virtual line with other would-be franchisees. When an opportunity became available – anywhere in the country – the next person at the front of the line would have that offered. Meaning that if you lived in San Diego and the next new McDonalds was going to open in Des Moines, IA  you either took  it  or went to the back of the line to start the wait all over.

They were that coveted.

Just saw a movie on the birth of McDonalds. Actually one could say that in the birth were twins – the actual modern  franchise concept and the restaurant design .

A problem in doing movie reviews is “how much does one reveal about the movie without spoiling it for would-be viewers?”.

What I will say is what has been general knowledge – that the Company’s official founder, Ray Kroc, was a milk shake machine salesman who did cold calls all over the Midwest.

And right at the start of the movie I thought they portrayed this well. Cold calling is the toughest kind of sales – you simply go up to people who aren’t expecting you and present your product or service. You can get anything from a door (virtual or real) slammed in your face to a receptive “show me what you have”. If you have the stamina to handle cold calling – and do it well – you can handle any kind of sales. You’d better get used to rejection – lots of it.

I know, because for about 7-8 years that’s what I did helping to build my  family’s (then) business. I lived in motels, and traveled all over California.

It is grueling and I would say easily over half cannot handle all of the rejection.  They  quit or start drinking before 5. There were some days that I’d get  5-10 rejections in a row – all before lunch. Those days  I would then vow to “grind it out” and  see at least 10 people that day no matter how I felt.

I treated it as a numbers game, which it is. Handle the 10 rejections to get the 1 sale (which over time proved to be the ratio). With each rejection I knew statistically I was closer to the next sale by 1.

I would see those 10 before I would “call it a day”. Believe me, some days I would just count off the calls hoping to get to 10 fast.  And during those days, some times, despite my attitude, persistence (a theme in the movie too)  would pay off with a sale.

Other days I saw my 10, got shot down 10 times, and called it a day. If I was on a roll that day I’d see 20-25.

Point is, if you can handle the rejection you really are at the front lines learning customer wants and needs.

And Ray Kroc through his persistent calling on businesses  learned about  the burgeoning fast food business in the early 50s.

So when he learned about how successful the  McDonald brothers were  out in San Bernardino, he made the effort to drive out there and see what made them such a success.

And the brothers told them, over a lengthy and expensive process, how they developed what was to become the model for fast food restaurant restaurants everywhere. To me I found it interesting as they went from the prevalent drive-in model (with car hops on roller skates!) to the walk-in model. But there was more to their perfection in design which the movie details.

The McDonald’s corporation credits Ray Kroc as the founder.

He was, and yet he wasn’t. More accurately he was the co-founder.

I left the theater thinking he was a morally flawed character but having subsequently read more about him, I’m not so sure.

But this much I can say without introducing movie spoilers: While Kroc perfected the franchise concept in the mid 50s, the McDonald brothers perfected the individual fast food restaurant model. Both were integral to the phenomenal success McDonalds enjoys to this day. Check just one amazing fact about their domination of the potato market in the U.S. I heard an amazing statistic years ago about the actual percentage of the US potato market goes to the Golden Arches, but can’t find it now. But they buy 3.4 billion pounds a year.

While there are older franchises – I read that A & W is one of the oldest – I would maintain that McDonalds  was the first modern franchise upon which everything else became modeled. They were the first to have consistent menus across the country, and consistent quality. And Ray Kroc perfected these concepts.

It is a movie worth seeing.





1 Comment

Filed under Movie Review

One response to “The Birth Of A True Fast Food Franchise?

  1. Interesting fact- McDonalds, Taco Bell, Del Taco , Der Weinerschnitzel, Naugles, and Bakers (the last two fairly regional) all either started in San Bernardino or were started nearby by San Bernardino-ians. Must be something in the water.

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