The Man Who Built Mcdonald'S Values and Brand

McDonald's Mission Statement Founder Ray Kroc Vision Values

Ralf-Finn Hestoft

Entrepreneur Ray Kroc didn't start the McDonald's restaurant chain. But without the vision of Ray Kroc, the supersized American fast-food chain might not have become the iconic global brand it is today. The chain was founded by the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, in 1940.

It's only natural that the values of the founder of any company find their way into the philosophies of the company and its overarching mission statement. In the case of McDonald's, though, it's less clear-cut because McDonald's was already an innovative fast food restaurant chain when Ray Kroc stumbled upon it, and eventually purchased it in 1961. 

The foundation of the McDonald's mission was first built first by the two McDonald's brothers and later fortified under Ray Kroc's leadership. When looking at Kroc's early life, and the early history of McDonald's, it's easy to see how Ray Kroc's life circumstances influenced him, and how his life philosophies then influenced the evolution of the McDonald's brand. 

McDonald's Fast Food Restaurants Mission Statement

If you didn’t know which fast food restaurant chain it belonged to, you would think that the McDonald’s corporate mission statement could belong to any fast food restaurant chain in the U.S. But beyond the mission statement, McDonald’s embraces a set of seven Values that are unique to McDonald’s and create the kind of experience that customers around the world know to be uniquely McDonald’s.

Founders Influences on the McDonald's Restaurant Mission

Born on the 5th of October 1902 to parents from Czechoslovakia, Ray Kroc, grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. He attended both Oak Park and River Forest High Schools. When 15 years old, Ray Kroc heard about the First World War and, after lying about his age, began to train as an ambulance driver. Before Kroc saw active duty, though, the war ended.

During his medical training for the military, Kroc met Walt Disney (who had also forged his birth date on his passport to get into the military), and the two became friends. It’s easy to see how birds of a feather flocked together with this friendship since both men were creative innovators and visionary creators. Although Disney’s path took him to the entertainment industry and Kroc’s took him to the retail restaurant industry, the paths of the companies the two legendary leaders created would cross again in the future.

Kroc’s training as a wartime ambulance driver did not help him in his post-war career. He bounced between jobs and trades. He worked as a pianist, a radio DJ, a paper cup salesman, a door-to-door coffee bean salesman, and he exchanged work at a restaurant for room and board. It was his job as a milkshake machine salesman that would lead him to his destiny at the top of one of the largest restaurant chain empires in the world.

Kroc was traveling across the U.S. selling Multi-Mix milkshake machines when he discovered the McDonald brothers. Dick and Mack McDonald had a small chain of nine company-owned and 21 franchised restaurants. Having created an automated and systematized process for cooking and serving food in a limited-menu restaurant, the McDonald brothers are credited with giving birth to the “fast food” concept.

Because of his restaurant and sales experience, Kroc saw the brilliance and potential in the fast food restaurant concept the McDonald’s brothers had created. He first thought about capitalizing on the McDonald’s brothers successful restaurant chain concept from the perspective of milkshake machine sales. Instead, though, Kroc ended up being a national franchise agent for the McDonald’s brothers instead. 

The first franchise Kroc sold was sold to himself. Kroc’s first McDonalds restaurant location opened on April 15, 1955, in Des Plaines, IL. Kroc intended for this McDonald’s location to be the “model” franchise store, which would help him sell franchise contracts. In fact, by 1960 the McDonald’s chain had 50 franchise locations.

The McDonald’s brothers had insisted that all franchisees adhere to very strict guidelines and to adhere exactly to the restaurant system as they had created it. Kroc felt stifled by these restrictions, so in 1961, he purchased the McDonald’s restaurant chain from the McDonald brother for $2.7 million.

Ray Kroc's Mission to Build the McDonald's Brand

Even though Kroc had thought the McDonald’s brothers were too restrictive with their franchisees, reportedly Kroc was the same. He refused to sell any one person more than one franchise location and insisted that each restaurant location maintain consistency with the McDonald’s system. Although there were no words to describe it at the time, Kroc was not just building a restaurant chain, he was building one of the world’s most valuable brands.

In 1954, even before Kroc had opened his first McDonald’s franchise, he contacted his military buddy Walt Disney, asking if there was an opportunity to put a McDonald’s restaurant in the new “Disneyland” theme park that was not yet opened. Reportedly Walt passed the information to the VP in charge of concessions, but Kroc claimed he was never contacted again. Disneyland Park opened - without a McDonald’s restaurant – three months and two days after Kroc’s first McDonald’s franchise.

Both Disney and Kroc built two iconic American brands, so it was only natural that the companies would intersect at some point. In the 1980s McDonald’s started promoting Disney movies with Disney toys in its Happy Meals. In 1996 the two companies signed a 10-year contract in which McDonald’s agreed to promote Disney films with Happy Meal promotions and sponsor Walt Disney World theme park attractions. McDonald’s was the first restaurant chain allowed to open its own branded restaurants on Walt Disney World property. 

Reportedly over the course of that 10-year promo agreement, McDonald’s netted more than $1 billion and paid Disney $100 million in royalties. The entrepreneurial spirit of both men led them to personally succeed and to leave a legacy behind, which is reflected in each of the company’s mission statements.