I recently saw the movie, The Founder, starring Michael Keaton. I found it brilliantly done, entertaining, informative, and fascinating as I had only a sketchy understanding of the history of McDonald’s and Ray Kroc. I love these kinds of human interest stories and I love seeing them on the big screen even more.
From the movie, and also from my own research on the internet (remember, if it’s on the internet it must be true), I’ve learned that the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac, opened up the original McDonald’s in San Bernardino, California, in 1940 as a Barbecue joint that served hamburgers and fries too. Sometime around 1948 they figured out they sell more burgers and fries and malts than anything else, and transformed their restaurant into a burger joint. But they took it a step further and invented their Speedee Service System, which is the template for our modern day fast food burger production system.
It’s no accident, too, that their exponential growth in business was not only related to this smart transformation and change in paradigm, but let’s not forget they were on Route 66 too. They always say that success in business is location, location, and location. The success of business along Route 66 cannot be separated from the rise of Route 66 itself, the first interconnected paved highway in the United States. The McDonald brothers merely made smart business and real estate decisions that led to the rise of their little burger joint.
But I want to focus that first they were a barbecue establishment! How fun!! You’ll see barbecue highlighted on their menu above. Those guys were pitmasters first and foremost. They believed in and followed the traditions of their soul. Barbecue. Okay, first they owned a hot dog stand before this restaurant, but that is beside the point. They followed the lure of their inner being, barbecue.
The movie well documents the story of Ray Kroc entering their lives, and as they say, the rest is history. Remember though, the simple story behind this burger behemoth, McDonald’s, lies a trajectory into history that lands at the feet of the soul of America, barbecue!
Oh, and on a side note. The first McDonald’s restaurant in Minnesota opened on Snelling avenue in Roseville, Minnesota, in 1957, near the site of modern day Har Mar Mall. The picture here is of a similar McDonald’s as the original one has long been replaced.
And finally, the second McDonald’s in Minnesota opened in 1958 in St. Louis Park, thus giving a McDonald’s on both sides of the Mississippi River.