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Ray Kroc | Pioneer of the Fast Food Industry



Ray Kroc
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Ray Kroc was an American businessman and restauranteur. He brought a revolutionary change in the world of fast food by developing McDonald’s. He made McDonald’s the world’s biggest fast-food chain. Within a few years of his leadership, McDonald’s grew progressively. Today, McDonald’s net worth is more than $135 billion. At the time of Ray’s death in 1984, a new McDonald’s opened every 17 hours. His entrepreneurial spirit and thirty years of hard work made him one of the most successful personalities of the era. 


Ray Kroc is one of the most influential entrepreneurs of the 20th century. He is known as the Henry Ford of the service sector. He was the one to establish strict rules for McDonald’s franchise owners, staff members, and all the other employees. Ray made sure that no cheap substitutes were getting used for cost-cutting. He set a business model that changed everything in the world of fast food. For his exceptional accomplishment and contribution to the business world, The American Academy of Achievement granted him the Golden Plate Award in 1973. 

Early Life

On the 5th of October 1902, Raymond Albert Kroc was born in Oak Park, Illinois, Chicago. Ray’s parents came of Czech-American descent. Raymond was the eldest child of Rose and Louis Kroc. He had two siblings named Robert and Lorraine. Like any suburban American family, Ray’s mother was a loving homemaker, and his father worked in the service sector. Rose used to earn extra money by giving piano lessons to little kids. On the other hand, Louis spent his entire life working for a telegraph company. He was able to reach one of the upper management positions in the company. 

When Ray was four years old, his father took him to a phrenologist. Phrenologists can determine the character and abilities of a person by examining their skull. The phrenologist peeked at Ray’s head and told Louis that Ray would enter the food industry one day. However, little Ray and his father did not know that one day Ray would become a pioneer in the food industry. As a child, Ray wanted to earn some extra pocket money. This urge led him to his first step in the food industry. He started selling fresh lemonade outside his home to make a few bucks. The lemonade stall soon became popular. It turned out to be a building block for Ray. 

School Days

While still in school, Ray started working at a grocery store. Thereafter, he did a part-time job at a drug store. Everyone in the neighborhood saw Ray as a hard-working, quick-witted, and diligent boy. At school, he excelled in debate. During a school debate, he realized he had a convincing speech. As a child, he naturally learned piano with his mother. He was great at baseball too. His father used to take him to many baseball matches. Growing up, he was a determined, persuasive, hard-working, enthusiastic, and dedicated boy. However, he did not incline to study. At the age of 14, Ray, along with his friends, created The Ray Kroc Music Emporium. Ray played the piano, and his friends sold sheet music. The Ray Kroc Music Emporium lasted for a year.

At the age of 15, Ray decided that he wanted to help his country. America was undergoing World War 1 at that time. Ray lied about his age to join the Red Cross ambulance service as a bus driver. His training began soon. While training, he met two other young cadets. One was Ernest Hemmingway, and the other was Walter Elias (Walt Disney). 

By the time Ray’s training ended, the war had also ended. Ray packed his stuff and went back to Chicago. Upon returning, his father asked him to complete high school. Ray listened to his father and started attending the school again. However, he couldn’t concentrate on his academics anymore. After a few months, he told his parents he wanted to follow his aspirations. As a result, he dropped out of school. After leaving school, Ray started working as a salesman in the day and as a pianist at night. 


During the Great Depression, Ray started working as a salesman at the Lily Tulip Paper Cup company. He worked sincerely and impressed the organization with his hard work. Soon, he became the top salesperson of Lily Tulip Paper Cup company. He worked in the paper cup business for more than 16 years. While working in the paper cup company, Ray came across Earl Prince. Earl eventually became one of his best paper cup customers. One day, Earl came to Ray with a milkshake mixer called ‘Multimixer.’ The multimixer consisted of five spindles. At that time, a regular milkshake mixer could only churn one milkshake at a time. In contrast, the Multimixer could stir five milkshakes at one go. Ray saw massive potential in the Multimixer. Hence, Earl and Ray teamed up to sell the Multimixer. 

At the age of 37, Ray left the paper cup business.  He jumped into the world of selling and marketing Multimixer. The innovation of the Multimixer brought many customers. However, things changed drastically by the end of the Second World War. Sales started decreasing due to the economic condition of the country. In contrast, Ray kept receiving orders for Multimixers from a particular place in California. It was a drive-in restaurant led by two brothers in San Bernardino. At that time, restaurants were struggling to make profits. Most of the restaurants had closed down. Ray wondered how could a small drive-in restaurant need eight Multimixers. He decided to fly to California to see for himself. Ray entered the small restaurant and was highly impressed by the efficiency and quality of food. It was none other than McDonald’s. 

Life-Changing Decision 

After visiting McDonald’s, Ray started envisioning it on the roads and highways across America. He decided to meet the McDonald brothers. Ray told them how successful McDonald’s could be if it gets expanded to other country areas. The two brothers weren’t interested in Ray’s idea of expansion. They felt it would be too much hassle. Ray told them he would be managing the expansion of McDonald’s and the brothers agreed to it. The three decided that Ray would get 1.9% of the gross sales through an agreement.

At 52, Ray started spending all his time and energy on McDonald’s. He spent all his money to establish a McDonald’s franchise in Illinois. Ray went through many financial difficulties. Simultaneously, his health was deteriorating. He also had a tiff with the McDonald brothers. Due to the conflict, he ended up paying a hefty amount. However, he did not lose hope. He was determined to open the franchise. 

Finally, in 1955, Ray opened the franchise in Illinois. The restaurant served good quality food in less than a minute. People loved the service and efficiency of McDonald’s. Soon, the franchise started flourishing. The burgers had impeccable taste. Fries were freshly made. The flavorsome milkshakes gave customers a delightful experience. Within three years, McDonald’s sold 100 million burgers.

In 1961, Ray purchased McDonald’s for $2.7 million from the McDonald brothers. By 1967, McDonald’s went international. Over the years, McDonald’s expanded progressively. By 1980, it had a franchise in more than 32 countries. However, with each passing year, Ray’s health deteriorated. Until his last day, with the support of a wheelchair, Ray gave McDonald’s all he could. In 1984, he passed away due to heart failure. His contribution to the food industry is incomparable. His legacy remains with McDonald’s. To date, it is the most popular food chain in the world.

Also read: Domino’s Pizza | The success story of one of the leading food chains

When did Ray Kroc buy McDonald's?

Ray Kroc bought McDonald’s in 1961.

Who inherited Ray Kroc's fortune?

Ray Kroc’s third wife, Casey Williams, inherited his fortune.

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