Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ray Kroc, Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016)

It’s one of the first memories I can identify by time and place. There I am, sitting in the back seat of my father’s red 1960 Buick LeSabre, gazing up at a sign featuring a jolly Mr. Speedee, who is cheerfully informing us that he has sold over 100 million hamburgers as of this mid-winter evening in 1962. Yes, this is even before McDonald’s had the golden arches, though as I recall they followed shortly thereafter

It seems that this restaurant chain has always been around, morphing somewhat from time to time but always growing and grabbing ever-greater market share.  But Ray Kroc’s entrepreneurial autobiography, recently reissued in advance of the recently released movie, The Founder, with Michael Keaton in the starring role, reminds us that the leviathan that is McDonald’s has been around only for a little more than a half-century.

This is the story of a paper cup salesman who graduates to selling milkshake mixers. He stumbles on the idea of franchising a California hamburger joint as a way to increase mixer sales.  Along the way and through persistence, he builds an empire based on hamburgers, French fries and milk shakes—and a brand (and color scheme to make us hungry?) instantly recognizable around the world.

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