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​Franchise, Fries, and Fortitude: A Look at 'The Founder'

​Franchise, Fries, and Fortitude: A Look at 'The Founder'

Posted by Stelios on 27th Aug 2023

Ah, McDonald's is a ubiquitous symbol of fast food globally, yet have you ever wondered how it all began? 'The Founder,' available for streaming on Netflix, tells the tale of Ray Kroc, a struggling milkshake machine salesman who morphs into the tycoon behind McDonald's' Golden Arches. This compelling biopic serves as a chronicle of ambition and enterprise and a business masterclass.


Photo Courtesy of STUDIOCANAL

The Pioneering Spirit

In the 1950s, Ray Kroc's lucky encounter with Dick and Mac McDonald, owners of a modest yet efficient burger joint in Southern California, sets the stage for a fast-food revolution. Intrigued by the brothers' prodigious order for six of his otherwise unsellable milkshake machines, Kroc's curiosity leads him to visit the establishment. He discovers a work of operational artistry: the fast-food equivalent of Henry Ford's production line. Meals are served in seconds rather than minutes. This restaurant, in essence, redefines the phrase "fast food," meeting a previously unfulfilled customer need for speed without compromising quality.

The Lessons Wrapped in Buns

The film teaches numerous business principles; perhaps the most vital one is the power of curiosity. Ever the salesman, Kroc didn't simply ship out his machines; he questioned the whys and hows behind the vast order. Another essential takeaway is the willingness to innovate. The McDonald brothers, who embraced efficiency as their mantra, disrupted the prevailing fast-food model, adopting principles from the car manufacturing sector and fine-tuning them on the chalk outlines of a tennis court.

Photo Courtesy of STUDIOCANAL

Then comes the idea of delivering what the customer needs. The restaurant became a revelation in an era of sluggish drive-ins with error-prone orders. The McDonald brothers catered to an unspoken but glaring need: swift service without compromising quality. Kroc, sensing an opportunity, envisioned an empire. His dream was more than just a handful of successful restaurants but a nationwide global franchise. The burger and the boundless possibilities of the business itself enamoured him.

The Pitfalls and Triumphs

However, the journey wasn't without its bumps. Kroc initially partnered with well-off franchisees who, unfortunately, were reluctant to adhere to his stringent standards. His pivot towards more earnest, middle-class franchise owners proved pivotal, reflecting the hypothesis that the right partners matter more than abundant resources in business. The film also delves into Kroc's relentless grit and tolerance for setbacks and disappointments, especially as the McDonald brothers stall various ideas he proposes.

Further complexity is added when Kroc, grappling with financial constraints, receives sage advice from Harry Sonneborn. Sonneborn makes Kroc realise that he isn't merely in the fast-food business but in the real estate business. This insight shifts the balance of power irrevocably in Kroc's favour, culminating in him wresting control of the enterprise from the brothers through shrewd contract negotiation.

Photo Courtesy of STUDIOCANAL

In Retrospect

'The Founder' becomes essential viewing for anyone interested in dissecting the mechanics of innovation and business acumen — an entrepreneur, fish & chip shop owner, or manager. In essence, it's not just the tale of how a tiny California burger stand became a global empire but a study of vision, persistence, and occasional ruthlessness that such undertakings often demand.

While the McDonald's Golden Arches might have always been a part of the sky for most of us, this film brings us back to the ground, offering a glimpse into the sweat, the schemes, and the sheer audacity that went into hoisting them up there. So the next time you munch on a Big Mac, perhaps you'll ponder a little on the colossal empire built on the cornerstone of a simple yet transformative idea: fast food, served fast.

The Founder

Director: John Lee Hancock 

Writer: Robert Siegel 

Producer: Jeremy Renner