Ray Kroc Biography

(CEO of McDonald's (1967-1973))

Birthday: October 5, 1902 (Libra)

Born In: Oak Park, Illinois, United States

Raymond Albert Kroc, popularly known as Ray Kroc, was an American businessman, who brought about a revolution in the fast food industry, making McDonald’s the biggest fast food chain in the world. Once referred to by Harvard Business School as “the service sector’s equivalent of Henry Ford”, Kroc had a modest beginning. Initially, he sold various items such as paper cups, and milkshake mixers before coming in contact with the McDonald brothers, who ran a small but popular fast food joint in California, at the age of 51. Subsequently, he acquired the franchise of small-scale McDonald’s Corporation, transforming it into one of the most successful fast food operations in the world. Ray Croc eventually bought the company, at the age of 59. He also utilized standardization to ensure that McDonald’s food products taste the same in all the outlets. Kroc revolutionized the American restaurant industry with the new and developed operating and delivery system. By the time of his death, the chain had 7,500 outlets across the world with gross sales of $8 billion.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Raymond Albert Kroc

Died At Age: 81


Spouse/Ex-: Ethel Fleming (m. 1922–1961), Jane Dobbins Green (m. 1963–1968), Joan Kroc (m. 1969–1984)

father: Louis Kroc

mother: Rose Kroc

children: Marilyn Kroc Barg

Born Country: United States

Quotes By Ray Kroc American Men

political ideology: Republican

Died on: January 14, 1984

place of death: San Diego, California, United States

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

Diseases & Disabilities: Stroke

Ancestry: Czech American

U.S. State: Illinois

City: Oak Park, Illinois

Founder/Co-Founder: McDonald's Corporation

  • 1

    What was Ray Kroc's role in the growth of McDonald's?

    Ray Kroc was instrumental in transforming McDonald's from a small burger restaurant into a global fast-food empire through his aggressive franchising strategies.

  • 2

    How did Ray Kroc acquire McDonald's from the original founders?

    Ray Kroc acquired McDonald's from the original founders, the McDonald brothers, by convincing them to sell the company to him in 1961 for $2.7 million.

  • 3

    What business tactics did Ray Kroc employ to expand McDonald's worldwide?

    Ray Kroc employed innovative business tactics such as standardizing operations, implementing franchising agreements, and emphasizing quality control to expand McDonald's globally.

  • 4

    How did Ray Kroc revolutionize the fast-food industry?

    Ray Kroc revolutionized the fast-food industry by introducing the concept of fast, efficient service, consistency in food quality, and a focus on customer experience at McDonald's restaurants.

  • 5

    What was Ray Kroc's vision for McDonald's future growth?

    Ray Kroc envisioned McDonald's as a household name with a restaurant in every major city worldwide, leading the company to become one of the most successful and recognizable brands in the world.

Childhood & Early Years

Raymond Albert Kroc was born on October 5, 1902, in Oak Park, at that time a village adjacent to the city of Chicago in the state of Illinois. Both his parents were of Czech origin and Ray was their eldest child.

His father, Alois "Louis" Kroc, originally from the village of Bøasy near Plzeò in Bohemia, was a man of great discipline. Employed with the telegraph company, Western Union, he rose to reach a high position in the organization. He was also a baseball fan, a craze Ray inherited from him.

His mother, Rose Mary nee Hrach, was born in Illinois. She was an affectionate lady and a homemaker. She also played the piano, earning extra money by giving lessons to children and adults. Ray also learned the piano from her, showing a natural affinity for it.

He had two younger siblings; Robert and Lorraine. As children, Ray and Bob had very different inclinations and the two often found it difficult even to talk to each other. However, they came closer as they became older.

While Bob was studious, Ray was anything but that. He often came up with novel schemes, dreaming up elaborate plans to make them work, earning the nickname of ‘Danny Daydreamer’. But his dreams were never idle; contrarily they were always linked to some form of action.

From his childhood, Ray displayed a great deal of determination and confidence. He was also an intelligent, hardworking boy. While studying at Lincoln School in Oak Park, he excelled in debates, showing a knack for being able to convince people easily.

While studying at the grammar school, he started earning extra cash by doing odd jobs at grocery or drugstores. Later he started selling lemonade at a stand outside his home. This was his first stint in the food business.

In 1916, at the age of 14, Ray, along with two of his friends, opened a music store called ‘Ray Kroc Music Emporium’, selling sheet music while he played the piano. However, it closed down after a few months.

He then worked for a few months at his uncle’s soda fountain, where he further honed his salesmanship. It was here that he learned that a little smile and show of enthusiasm could make a person buy more than he actually intended to.

In 1917, on completion of his sophomore year, Ray decided to join the ongoing First World War as an ambulance driver, hoping to serve on the front line. But as a 15-year-old, he was ineligible for such services.

Lying about his age, Ray joined the American Red Cross and was subsequently sent to Connecticut for training, after which, he was destined to serve in France. But the war ended before he could be sent overseas.

He then returned to Chicago and at his father’s insistence, rejoined Lincoln School to complete his schooling. But, by now, he had new ideas and therefore he dropped out of school once again, ready to venture out into the real world to earn his living.

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Early Career

In 1919, at the age of 17, Ray Kroc began his career in sales, supplementing his income as a pianist at a nightclub or as a DJ at the local radio station. Subsequently, he held a series of jobs, selling everything from real estate in Fort Lauderdale to feminine accessories and embellishments.

For a while, he also joined the American Stock Exchange in New York, reading ticker tapes and translating symbols. Finally, at the age of 21, he got his first steady job as a salesman at Lily Tulip Paper Cup Company.

Young, ambitious, and hardworking, he now traveled around the country, selling paper cups, which he knew were there to stay. He took care of his customers’ needs, always keeping in touch with them. Very soon, he began to be counted as one of the top salesmen of the company.

In 1938, while selling paper cups, Kroc met a gentleman called Earl Prince. He had invented something, called ‘Multimixer’, which was actually a milkshake mixer with five spindles. Usually, such shakers had one spindle that churned out one milkshake at a time while the ‘Multishaker’ could churn out five.

By then, after 16 years of service at Lily Tulip Paper Cup Company, he was feeling rather frustrated. Realizing that ‘Multimixer’ had great potential, he obtained exclusive marketing rights for the product and at the age of 37, gave up his secured job to form Prince Castle Sales.

Initially, the response was good, selling 8000 mixers in a good year. Slowly, people’s priorities began to change and his main customers, the restaurants and soda fountain vendors in cities, began to suffer, resulting in a dip in his sales. The Hamilton Beach drink mixers also offered a steep competition.

Opening McDonald s

In 1954, as the situation was rather grim, Ray Kroc noticed that one restaurant in San Bernardino had continued to order his mixers in bulk. Curious, he made a visit and found it to be a drive-in restaurant with no indoor-sitting arrangements, run by two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald.

Looking around, he found that the restaurant used an assembly-line format to prepare and sell a large volume of food in a very short time. Moreover, the menu was limited to cheeseburgers, hamburgers, fries, drinks, and milkshakes; but the sale was so huge that it ran eight of his mixers continuously.

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Amazed, he began to loiter around the parking lot, talking to its customers, and found that they came here regularly for its inexpensive, but tasty hamburgers and French fries. Immediately, he began to dream of a chain of McDonalds, each of which would use five to eight of his multimixers.

When he talked to the McDonald brothers they initially did not show any interest; but Kroc convinced them to give him the exclusive rights to sell the McDonald's method. He was then 52 years old, suffering from diabetes and arthritis. Yet, he knew that he must not miss the opportunity.

On April 15, 1955, Kroc opened his first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois. By the year's end, he had opened two more; grossing $235,000 in sales. Everywhere, he used the McDonald brothers’ format, paying special attention to cleanliness. Later, he began to sell franchises, collecting 1.9% of the gross sales.

To make a further profit, he opened another independent company that would buy or lease lands, on which McDonald's franchises would stand. The franchises paid him a rental or a percentage of the sales, whichever was greater.

By the turn of the 1950s, McDonald's had grown really big, bringing in good profits. But at the same time, frequent clashes began to erupt between Kroc and the McDonald brothers over changes Kroc would like to bring in. Therefore in 1961, Kroc bought out the McDonalds for $2.7 million-cash.

The transfer was not without a hitch. Kroc had expected that the deal would include the original restaurant at San Bernardino; but at the last moment, the brothers refused to part with it. In retaliation, Kroc refused to give them a royalty, which he had only promised orally.

He also opened a brand-new McDonald’s one block away from the original store, now named ‘The Big M’, forcing the brothers away from the business. Free to run his business as he thought fit, Kroc now began to expand very quickly. By 1965, the chain had 700 restaurants in 44 states.

In April 1965, McDonald's went public at $22 per share. Within weeks its share price climbed to $49, bringing in huge profit for him. By the end of the decade, there were 1,500 McDonald's operating worldwide, surpassing Kroc’s wildest dream.

In 1965, Kroc became President of McDonald’s and started a training program for franchise owners, emphasizing standardization of operations as well as automation. He made strict rules about cooking procedures, the size of each product, packaging, etc. so that McDonald's Hamburgers taste the same all over the country.

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He served as the President of McDonald’s until 1968. Thereafter, he became the Chairman of the Board, holding the position until 1977. Finally, from 1977 until his death in 1984, he remained the Senior Chairman of the company.

In 1977, after stepping down from his position as the Chairman of the Board, Kroc turned his attention to baseball. He now bought the San Diego Padres and concentrated on improving the team. Although it made it to the World Series in 1984, Kroc did not live to cherish it.

Major Innovations

Ray Kroc is known to make a number of innovations in the food service industry. Most important among them was that he offered single-store franchises instead of territorial franchises as was the practice in those days.

Although giving exclusive licenses for a large market helped the franchisor to make quick money, single-store franchises allowed more control, contributing to the development of the chain. Kroc was ready to forgo easy money in order to establish a well-known chain with uniform service all over the country.

Kroc also looked after the interests of franchises. Unlike other restaurant chains, he sold the supplies at a reasonable rate, making sure that they earned enough profit, which in turn would serve his interest more.

Another of his innovative ideas was to set up Hamburger University in Oak Brook, in the western suburb of Chicago. The campus is spread over 80 acres, providing 32 hours of training to the restaurant employees in their first month. Initially, Kroc oversaw lessons, but now his videotaped lectures are used.

Awards & Achievements

In 1972, Ray Kroc received the Horatio Alger Award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans for his dedication and honesty.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1922, Ray Kroc married his high school sweetheart Ethel Fleming. They had a daughter named Marilyn Kroc. The couple divorced in 1961.

In 1963, he married Jane Dobbins Green, a secretary. The marriage ended in a divorce in 1968.

In 1969, he married Joan Beverly Smith nee Mansfield. They first met in 1957, while he was married to Ethel and Joan to Rawland F. Smith, a Navy veteran and a McDonald's franchisee. They carried on a secret relationship for years before they could divorce their respective spouses and get married.

Kroc suffered from diabetes and arthritis. He was also an alcoholic. In 1980, after suffering a stroke, he was admitted to a rehabilitation center for his alcoholism.

He died of heart failure on January 14, 1984, at the age of 81, and was buried at the El Camino Memorial Park in Sorrento Valley, San Diego. He was survived by his third wife Joan.

Facts About Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc had a fascination with flying and obtained his pilot's license in his 60s, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

He was known for his love of music and often played the piano to relax and unwind.

Kroc was an avid baseball fan and enjoyed attending games whenever he could.

Kroc was a philanthropist and supported various charitable causes throughout his life, showing his commitment to giving back to the community.

See the events in life of Ray Kroc in Chronological Order

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