The Founder: How the McDonald’s Franchise Took America

Michael Keaton stars in THE FOUNDER. Photo: Daniel McFadden.

The Founder tells us the story of how Ray Kroc turned McDonald’s into a franchise and left the founding brothers out to dry.

All of my life, I was led to believe that McDonald’s #1 in Des Plaines, Illinois, was the very first McDonald’s ever built in America. It wasn’t. It was the second. The first was owned and operated by the McDonald brothers. Kroc only discovered the brothers and the fully automated burger joint out in San Bernardino, California in the mid 1950s.

Directed by John Lee Hancock from a screenplay by Robert Siegel, we see how Kroc takes their name and turns it into the billion dollar franchise that we know it as today.

Keaton leads a cast that also includes Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak, and Laura Dern.

With their limited menu of burgers, fries, shakes and sodas, the McDonald brothers revolutionized the fast food industry. At a time when drive-ins were the craze but speed was a problem, the figured out a solution: limit items on the menu, automate the system, and have customers walk up to the window. But that’s not why we’re at the movie.

We’re there to discover just how shrewd a businessman that Kroc was. Here was a guy who was struggling as a traveling salesman for Prince Castle Sales. At time, he was trying to get people to buy the Multimixers, he learns of a drive-in restaurant that ordered six of them. Captivated, he immediately sets out for the California burger joint.

Kroc is impatient as he wants to expand beyond the Midwest. Frustrated by the financial situation given his small cut and the brothers’ restrictions, he seeks to take out a loan when he meets Harry Sonneborn. Sonneborn tells him to view McDonald’s as a real estate business rather than just a burger operation. By leasing the land, he would make money that way as the brothers would get a larger cut of everything inside the walls. This leads him to create the Franchise Realty Corporation and later buy the brothers out in 1961.

We all know who Ray Kroc is. But just who were Dick and Mac McDonald? That’s what we learn in the movie. No one has ever told their story, so to speak, until now. But was Ray the founder that we thought him to be? Absolutely not. In telling their story, the McDonalds brothers finally get their due.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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