The Founder is primarily about Ray Kroc, the man behind what McDonald’s became until his death. It also entails the two brothers (Mac and Dick) who created the original restaurant Kroc hijacked and transformed into an empire that still feeds one percent of the Earth every day.
I knew the basics of the McDonald’s story through David Halberstam’s book The Fifties. Kroc was a milkshake mixer salesman in his fifties having no luck selling the hardware to America’s numerous diners, restaurants and drive-ins. When he receives an order for six multi-mixers from this place in San Bernadino, he assumes it’s a mistake and calls. Mac answers and says the order was in error, make the order eight multi-mixers. This makes Kroc curious so he abandons his current sales plans in Missouri to drive all the way to California. There Kroc witnesses this restaurant with a line the length of the parking lot yet nobody minds, the service is fast.
The brothers give Kroc a tour of their kitchen ballet and afterwards their biography, especially on how they gambled with closing their drive-in for months in order to rebuild it into a customized monument of efficiency. Kroc pitches franchising. The brothers shoot him down saying they’ve tried before with horrible results because the franchise holders always drift away from their model and/or change the menu. Kroc’s persistence wears them down but Dick is the one who really lays down the conditions in the contract. Then the fighting begins in earnest until Kroc buys them out through underhanded means.
The Founder is good story. To me, Kroc is another disciple of Ayn Rand and Capitalism going unchecked. He’s a man obsessed with “winning.” He’s also a man with a very weak moral compass: he breaks up a franchise-holder’s marriage to marry the wife; he doesn’t think his first wife does enough to contribute; and he quits the social circles he used to run in to find the “right” people to buy into franchises. McDonald’s is his life, all else comes second.
I’m curious as to what he would be doing to turn the chain around 30 years later as sales have declining, they’ve had to actually close restaurants in the last decade, there are now more Subways than McDonald’s and lastly, people consider the food to be subpar. As one comedian said on a podcast…people want to eat real food.
Check it out. Even if you hate the food, The Founder is an intriguing story on how the omnipresent restaurant came to be. Terrific performances from Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman too.
No Alamo Extras, I had to wait for this to show up at the discount theater near Pinballz Lake Creek.