Ray Kroc

Business Personality / Entrepreneur

Born: 5 October 1902
Died: 14 January 1984
Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois
Best known as: The entrepreneur behind the fast food chain McDonald's

Ray Kroc is the American entrepreneur who made McDonald's an international success and the world's largest chain of restaurants. His rags-to-riches story started in a Chicago suburb, where he dropped out of school at age 15 to become an ambulance driver near the end of World War I. Ray Kroc was a salesman for more than thirty years, first with the Lily Tulip Cup Company and then for the manufacturers of a mixer that could make five milkshakes at once. Following a big order of mixers to a hamburger stand in San Bernadino, California, Kroc grew impressed with the assembly-line system of Richard and Maurice McDonald. Ray Kroc, at the age of 52, jumped into the burger business, with a McDonald's franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955. He founded what became McDonald's Corporation the same year and devised a national system for franchise owners that would guarantee uniform quality and a network of national suppliers. Within three years his restaurants had sold 100 million burgers. Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers in 1961, the same year he got the notion for a Hamburger University, where franchise employees and owners learned to ensure uniformity from store to store. Over the next few decades, the McDonalds logo -- the "golden arches" of a big curved 'M' -- and hamburgers like the Big Mac and the Quarter-Pounder became globally known. A hands-on owner and famously hard-working businessman, Kroc was known to fuss over restaurant details long after he was a rich man.

Extra credit:

At the time of Ray Kroc’s death, McDonald’s was the biggest chain of restaurants in the world, in terms of sales and numbers of outlets; in 2011 McDonald’s was edged from the top spot by Subway… Ray Kroc bought the major league baseball team the San Diego Padres in 1974; Ray’s widow, Joan Kroc, sold the team in 1990… Ernest Hemingway, a few years older than Kroc, was also a native of Oak Park, Illinois, and also volunteered to drive an ambulance in World War I.

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