Quotes From McDonald's Visionary Ray Kroc

McDonald's outdoor signage
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When Ray Kroc franchised the first McDonald's restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill., on April 15, 1955, it wasn't just the opening of a restaurant; it was the birth of a franchise system, one of the most valuable American retail brands, and an international fast food empire

These quotes from arguably the most successful fast-food retailer reveal what Kroc was thinking and learning about the business as he was building the McDonald's chain in the U.S. and ultimately around the world. Both restaurant and retail leaders would be well-advised to listen to his wisdom.

  • "I put the hamburger on the assembly line."
  • "We're not in the hamburger business. We're in show business."
  • “I believe in God, family, and McDonald’s. And in the office, that order is reversed.”
  • “I like to get people fired up, fill them with zeal for McDonald’s, and watch the results in their work.”

“You’re only as good as the people you hire.”

  • "When I saw [Maurice and Richard McDonald's restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif.] working that day in 1954, I felt like some latter-day Newton who’d just had an Idaho potato caromed off his skull. That night in my motel room, I did a lot of heavy thinking about what I’d seen during the day. Visions of McDonald’s restaurants dotting crossroads all over the country paraded through my brain."
  • "McDonald's is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl's face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image."
  • "The success of additions such as the Filet-O-Fish, the Big Mac, Hot Apple Pie, and Egg McMuffin … each evolved from an idea of one of our operators. So the company has benefited from the ingenuity of its small businessmen."
  • "I didn’t invent the hamburger. I just took it more seriously than anyone else."
  • "It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun. Yet is it any more unusual to find grace in the texture and softly curved silhouette of a bun than to reflect lovingly on the hackles of a favorite fishing fly? Or the arrangement of textures and colors in a butterfly's wing? Not if you're a McDonald's man. Not if you view the bun as an essential material in the art of serving a great many meals fast."
  • "Perfection is very difficult to achieve, and perfection was what I wanted in McDonald's. Everything else was secondary for me."

“Look after the customers and the business will take care of itself.”

  • "The McDonald brothers were simply not on my wavelength at all. I was obsessed with the idea of making McDonald's the biggest and the best. They were content with what they had; they didn't want to be bothered with more risks and more demands."
  • "We provide food that customers love, day after day after day. People just want more of it."
  • “I don’t believe in saturation. We’re thinking and talking worldwide.”
  • "If any of my competitors were drowning, I'd stick a hose in their mouth."
  • "The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it."
  •  "If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours."
  • "It's easy to have principles when you're rich. The important thing is to have principles when you're poor."
  • "If you're not a risk-taker, you should get the hell out of business."
  • “Take calculated risks. Act boldly and thoughtfully. Be an agile company.”

“It is no achievement to walk a tightrope laid flat on the floor.”