The Founder, currently available on Amazon Prime, is the biopic dramatisation of how Ray Kroc expanded and styled himself as the “founder of The McDonald’s Corporation”.
Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the conniving ruthless all American opportunistic entrepreneur of the mid 50’s through early 60’s is captivating, you grow to dislike the guy. Undoubtedly a hard worker, always looking for the next big thing that will bring him success and progress. His aspirations are genuine it’s his methods that you question.
McDonald’s was a small walk-up diner in San Bernardino operated by the brothers who through trial and carefully planned thought had devised the speedee kitchen system. John Carroll Lynch’s depiction of Maurice “Mac” McDonald is brilliantly calm and tight, you’d maybe wonder if in this modern age he’d possibly be on the Asperger’s/Autistic spectrum with his analytical accute senses and manners. An astute sense of principle, the ethics and ethos of McDonald’s, a small, clean, family friendly eatery that had somehow cornered what ever ‘it’ was that made a burger and fries something so delicious and satisfying. His meticulous attention to detail, that fries are fried at this temp not a degree less, the fries are this thin and that long, there’s always two pickle and burgers uniformly grilled each side. Nick Offerman plays Richard “Dick” McDonald the younger brother more easy going and trusting than his brother, often the trainer and front of house face.
Initially Ray was a travelling salesman trying to sell milkshake machines and when one restaurant ordered eight he was intrigued and drove to see why. He met the brothers, was shown their business and how it operated and he hit upon the idea of franchising. Initially the brothers were resistant as previous attempts had failed due to inconsistent practises, lack of menu control and the McD ethos. While trying to garner investors and potential managers Ray realised rather than big money men investing and immature managers, getting middle class married couple to invest and work maintained the work ethics and family friendly atmosphere. Pushing ahead with a sketch of a diner Mac had drawn that introduces the Golden Arches and bright clean all glass frontage, things begin to roll.
Mac had been meticulous in the contract drawn up between the brothers and Ray but it hampered the gung-ho race forward eagerness of Ray and they constantly argued and differed. Increasingly unhappy with his 1% franchise commission Ray attempts to renegotiate his contract and loosen the brothers grip but they won’t budge, a deal is a deal and they must maintain continuity and control. After a chance conversation with a financial advisor Ray sets up the Corporation to buy land that is then leased to the franchisees, who pay fees to be McDonalds. This was his golden ticket to making money and the start of circumventing the brothers control.
Things come to a head when Dick suffers a diabetic stress collapse and heart attack. The brothers concede to let Ray out of his contract by buying them out, maybe without realising the full ramifications of what that would bring.
Before long Ray forced the brothers to remove the McDonald’s name from their restaurant citing intellectual property rights, he deliberately built the 100th diner across the road from them essentially sealing their demise. At the negotiation of dissolving the contract Ray had persuaded the brothers to agree to a handshake deal on the 1% royalties from the franchise, Ray denied it happened and never paid out. Ray paid each brother just over $1million (about $26milliom in todays money but a fraction of the businesses value today).
Years later when Ray was interviewed he said he liked the name “McDonalds” so much nicer than Kroc, so much more wholesome American.
Today it’s said that on a daily basis McDonalds feeds 1% of the global population – now who’d like to go get me a Big Mac Meal please?