A look at The Founder…
THERE can’t be too many people in the western world, or indeed in many other nations worldwide, who haven’t chowed down on a McDonald’s Big Mac and fries.
So it’s a bit of a mind-stretching exercise to find out all about Ray Kroc, the man who franchised the fast food chain across the globe resulting in today’s 35,000 outlets.
He wasn’t the company’s founder, though. That honour goes to San Bernadino, California brothers Mac and Dick McDonald.
In the mid-Fifties Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a reasonably successful travelling salesman peddling milkshake makers to snarky managers of diners.
Accustomed to regular brush-offs Kroc is astounded when he rings his head office. There’s an order in for six – no, make that eight – so Kroc sets off across the USA on Route 66 to meet the McDonalds.
He finds front-of-house man Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and ideas man Dick (Nick Offerman) running their incredibly successful takeaway restaurant like a Ford Motors production line.
There’s no plates, no cutlery and everything (in a paper bag) tastes just like the meal before it. It’s just what Ray’s been seeking.
Now Kroc is a character with no hidden depths. He’s a fast talker with a lot of energy but not a great deal of warmth.
Even his wife (Laura Dern) back home in a comfortable Midwest house is baffled by Ray and finds him a bit soulless.
Kroc is guided by a single mantra: persistence. Talent? No, sir. Genius? Forget it. Without persistence those traits are of no use.
So away he goes with his scheme to franchise the brand across the States. Starting off in the Midwest Kroc launches the McDonald’s brand.
His epiphany comes when he realises that a chain of restaurants can become a key part of an American trinity: the cross, the flag and the golden arches.
Kroc even goes as far as suggesting McDonald’s as the “new American church.” Maybe the scriptwriter took a flight of fancy here.
It’s when a smart young banker alerts him to the fact that Kroc needs to actually own the land upon which each Maccas sits and not just have fingers in the till as part of the franchise rake-off, that his scheme really takes off.
Needless to say even though the partnership ends with what seems like a reasonable monetary settlement, you’re left feeling Ray has dudded the McDonald brothers.
And there were a couple of facts which cropped up in the credits which should get a mention.
Dick and Mac McDonald had tried a tiny bit of franchising before Kroc appeared. They’d disowned a Phoenix, Arizona outlet when the owners strayed from the two slices of cucumber and three squirts each of mustard and ketchup on every single burger.
There were also two or three other restaurants in southern California but they’d failed the ‘clean kitchens’ test.
Kroc’s second wife and noted philanthropist Joan Smith (played by Linda Cardellini) left $1.6 billion to the Salvation Army (she belonged to the Salvation Army church) and $225 million to National Public Radio. She died some years after Ray.