The film begins with the introduction to Ray Kroc, middle- class milkshake machine salesman reciting the lucrative benefits of a technologically advanced, unprecedented milkshake machine towards a business owner. This business aspiration is to date unsuccessful and his perseverance in the face of failure is admirable.
Subsequently, innovative Mac and Dick McDonald discovered a monumentally successful-food outlet – in San Bernardino, California: quick, reliable, high-quality alternatives for families on a budget who want to bypass the disorderly, dirty, and teenager-infested drive-in restaurants. The McDonald brothers had tried several business ventures, none successful, until Dick McDonald re-engineered the kitchen to provide a high-quality hamburger quickly, with a limited menu. a relentless focus on order and cleanliness, and a family-friendly atmosphere. The brothers didn’t dare to jeopardize quality for an increased profit. And families flooded their prized store. The McDonald brothers soon became Kroc’s largest milkshake customer and later largest enemy
Ray Kroc arrives at the McDonald’s and immediately identifies a penetrable spot in the food industry that could be exploited. Hence, he advises Mac and Dick to expand the business nationally, a visionary idea to ‘strengthen America’ and be a ‘gathering place’ for the congregation from all walks of life. Ray Kroc acquires a contract from ‘McDonald’s’ that states that he, Head of Franchising will grow the business, while the brothers have full control of all the Factors of Production. Ray expands the ‘enterprise’ beyond initial expectation, until he gets informed that his capital reserves are depleted- Dick shows no empathy and won’t modify the legal agreement.
Issues involving operational control arise between the McDonald brothers and Kroc, which leads to an ingenious real estate leasing formula established by Kroc outside the parameters of the franchise agreement. The leasing formula quickly gives Kroc superior financial resources to the brothers. Kroc immediately becomes famous and is the so- called owner and ‘founder’ of the McDonald’s Corporation.
Kroc uses his extensive power, acquired solely from the revolutionary business model- to bully them with litigation threats they could not afford. The inconsolable and unjustified threats towards the brothers cause immeasurable stress and send Mac to hospital. At a time of stress and suffering Ray, swoops into the action with a buyout proposal to the brothers, with perpetual shares. The buyout proposition was agreed, stating that the brothers would receive 1% of annual net profit, along with a hefty buyout- return.
Leadership and management
The theme of leadership and management is seen countless times through the movie. We see the first major instance when Kroc strides onto a golf course angrily degrading a substandard burger and raging about the inadequate lettuce. This shows persistent effort to achieve and drive ultimate success. It illustrates the maturity that Ray Kroc displays towards his investment, business opportunity and his adherence to his respectable legal contract.
As the film progresses this theme becomes more prevalent in the lives of all the protagonists i.e. Dick and Mac decided that franchising and various other forms of diversification would have a negative impact on the financial position and reputability of the business. This was decided based on the famous maxim ‘quality beats quantity’- the quality throughout all the different functions of the business will be diluted as the business entity became less and less centralized, where law and standard enforcement would be particularly difficult. This scenario is seen as an ambitious management decision, considering the success that the McDonald’s business model has had, as a family orientated food outlet
There’s one scene early on that sums up the strange, slightly terrifying leadership and management style (Autocratic) appeal of the McDonald brothers’ operation. Before setting up their restaurant, they draw its kitchen floor plan, in chalk, on a tennis court and had their employees intricately mimic preparing the meals for customers, performing out each step (ketchup, pickles, fries, milkshakes) with perfect automation, in an eerie factory-floor dance. It’s beautiful, and it’s unsettling—a vision of America’s fast-food future where speed and efficiency will trump restaurant quality.
In my opinion Entrepreneurship, ties in very well with the Leadership component of this of this sub-section. The story unfolds as a conflict between two unbending forces: the McDonald brothers’ provocative beliefs on preserving their vision of their business—even if it meant directing only one branch—and Kroc’s vision for disrupting the entire food industry. Each side was iconoclastic in its own ways. Kroc ended up as the more agile entrepreneur, pivoting his business model in a way to successfully scale the enterprise and monetize his endeavours into a world- famous brand. Kroc, rather than the McDonald brothers, ended up becoming the “disrupter” of this generation. Through this example we notice Ray’s immorality but, he took the initiative, surpassed financial struggles and most importantly- persisted. At the same time, he holds himself and his employees to an incredibly high standard, rewards his most hard- working employees and treating the business as it is his child. The Founder seems to want it both ways, offering a view of Kroc as both heartless businessman and industrial genius. This business ideology is practiced by many of Ray’s future franchisees.
The businessman (or woman) is focused solely on making profits and succeeding financially, while the entrepreneur is continually identifying new opportunities in the market upon which, he/she invests capital in products or services that differ from what the economy already offers. Entrepreneurs use unarticulated knowledge from experience, intuition, etc.—to identify these various opportunities. This idea was portrayed in the film, predominantly by the McDonald brothers e.g. They ventured out into the market, leaving their home town and seeking a better life. Upon business failure, the entrepreneurial flame within them ceased to be extinguished- hence they identified a deficiency in the market and released the legendary McDonald’s franchise. The Founder provides an excellent cinematic example of how these concepts differentiate entrepreneurs from conventional businessmen/ women.
Professionalism and Ethics
The movie, the Founder educates the viewer on a current world issue, evident in businesses all around the world. This global concern being the sophisticated battle between what is legal and what is ethical. This film’s narrative is primarily dependant on the conniving attitude of Ray Croc towards improving his quality of life and economic prosperity through his achievement of dollars utilising eradicating deception. This utilisation soon turned Ray Kroc into a world- renowned businessman.
In the film, this battle takes place between the McDonald brothers and Ray Kroc- moral beliefs versus superior financial knowledge. The main message of the Founder is that market domination belongs to the ambitious opportunist rather than the competent innovator. The first occurrence of professionalism was the long haul to California by Ray to meet his customers and later the dinner gathering of the 3 businessmen. This event shows us the care and compassion Ray has for his customers (to find out their story). Another small professional act would be the organized way in which Ray approaches the bankers for a loan. One of the bankers said that the brochure was “professionally done”
The next act of pure professionalism is the superior way that the McDonald brothers run their business. They are repeatedly found running the restaurant, managing within the kitchen. They tend not to delegate, but practice on their own terms e.g. Dick asks Mac whether the quality of their chip is up to standard, Dick performs the stock count for the enterprise. Ray runs his McDonald’s branch in a relatively similar manner. He undergoes daily inspections and keeps the shop in pristine condition etc.
Unethical behaviour was the foundation on which Ray built the McDonalds empire. It started off with his dishonesty towards his wife, concerning his house mortgage appraisal, which could have left the couple homeless. This shows us that Ray Kroc has no sympathy for others and could be described as a capitalist predator.
I would say that the largest unethical action undertook by Ray was his appalling treatment towards the brothers. He not only deceived them with the leasing agent, but after all the brothers did for him, bought them out. Other, less important forms of unethical conduct would be the superfluous dump of his wife, the flinching of another man’s spouse (Joan), the introduction of powdered milkshakes (to save on electricity costs), and the apathetic financial treatment towards Ethel- post- divorce.
Conflict plays an important role in defining relationships in the film. The success of managing that conflict will determine the success of your argument thereof. This is especially true in the movie “The Founder”. In these next few paragraphs I will illustrate scenarios where conflict changed the course of the film.
The first major argument had to do with the circulars of Ray’s contract. At the construction site of the Des Plains branch, Ray reads a letter informing him that he is prohibited from allowing Coca-Cola to be a sponsor of the corporation. He displays imminent anger and decides to call them from a payphone, informing the brothers that the sponsorship will be minor. Dick is insistent- he will not commercialize the brand. At the sales office, Ray realises that his capital reserves are depleted, because of his pathetic contract of 1.4% income from the revenue. Ray tries to renegotiate the number, but Dick is fixated on the fact that it would be unfair towards the franchisees. He will not budge. This is the point that Ray realises that he is in a serious predicament and needs to implement a crafty plan. This is when Harry Sonneborn steps up, and changes Ray’s economic health forever- the leasing formula.
The sales office Ray worked for is now called Franchise Realty Corporation and Ray writes to the brothers with the new corporation as the letter title, to arouse curiosity. As expected, Dick calls Ray to comment on and object the newly found company. This was obviously a preconception as Ray had already foreseen this conversation. Ray disingenuously replied that the company was out of the McDonald brothers’ purview. This sparks agony in the brothers. This moment can be compared to a prelude in the film, when Dick said that they have let “the wolf in the hen house”. Later in the film, Ray confidently informs the brothers that he is buying them out. The brothers respond saying that it is illegal to do so. After Ray points out they can’t afford to sue him because he can bury them in court costs. He’s the president and CEO of a major fast food empire with landholdings in 17 states. He advises them that they own a small-scale burger outlet in the middle of nowhere. Mac goes into a diabetic shock. The brothers decide that it is impossible to stop Ray and ask for favourable buyout benefits.