Co- founder of McDonald's
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Date Posted: Friday, July 14, 04:58:29pm
Richard McDonald, who with his brother Maurice revolutionized the way that billions of people around the world eat in fast-food restaurants, died on Tuesday at a nursing home in Manchester, N.H. He was 89 and lived in nearby Bedford, N.H.
From a single hamburger stand in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1948, the systematized approach the McDonald brothers developed to offer customers reasonably priced food at a rapid pace formed the cornerstone of the fast-food business.
Today, the business they created, built, and sold in 1961, the McDonald's Corporation, has more than 23,000 outlets in 111 countries and sales in excess of $33 billion.
While they worked very much in tandem, Richard McDonald, who was known as Dick, is credited with two talismans of the McDonald's empire: the Golden Arches and the sign that proclaims how many hamburgers the chain has sold -- a figure now high in the billions.
''Our whole concept was based on speed, lower prices and volume,'' Mr. McDonald once said, adding hypothetically: A ''guy comes in, you ask him what he wants on his burgers; he says, 'I got to go back to the car to ask my wife.' Wouldn't work.''
It was not an idea the two brothers arrived at quickly. Born poor in rural New Hampshire, Richard and Maurice (Mac) McDonald migrated to California in the late 1920's, equipped with high school diplomas and the desire to make $1 million before they reached 50.
A number of odd jobs on the periphery of the movie business failed to pan out. In the late 1930's they opened a hot dog stand near the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, Calif., northeast of Los Angeles.
In 1940, they opened a small drive-in barbecue restaurant in San Bernardino, a growing blue-collar city. Business was brisk, yet after a few years the McDonalds became convinced that they could do better by doing things faster.
In the fall of 1948 they shut down their restaurant, dismissed the carhops, streamlined the menu and began to reinvent the way they would deliver their food.
''Inside the kitchen, everything was mechanized,'' wrote David Halberstam in ''The Fifties,'' his 1993 book. ''Much of the food was preassembled; the slack time between the rush hours was used to prepare for the next onslaught.''
In addition to a revolutionized-pace kitchen, they wanted a symbol. What Richard McDonald came up with was the Golden Arches. ''I thought the arches would sort of lift the building up,'' he told an interviewer from The Chicago Tribune in 1985. ''Our architect said, 'Those arches have to go.' But they worked -- it was luck, I guess.''
Soon, there were long lines to buy what were then 15-cent hamburgers, 19-cent cheeseburgers, 20-cent milkshakes and 10-cent french fries.
By 1954, the McDonalds had sold 21 franchises and opened nine outlets. At that time, Ray Kroc was a milkshake-machine salesman who was not selling many machines, except to the McDonalds. He traveled to San Bernardino to see why, and was so impressed that he asked for a job as their franchise agent.
In 1955, Mr. Kroc founded the Franchise Realty Corporation, and opened his first McDonald's restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill. In 1960, he changed the name to the McDonald's Corporation. A year later, he bought the business from Dick and Mac McDonald for $2.7 million.
After the sale, Dick McDonald returned to his native New Hampshire. His brother Maurice died in 1971.
Mr. McDonald is survived by his wife, Dorothy, of Bedford; a stepson, Gale French, of Belchertown, Mass; and two step-grandchildren.
A contretemps of sorts blew up in the late 1970's, after publication of Mr. Kroc's biography, ''Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonald's.'' In it, Mr. Kroc, who has often been thought of as the driving force behind McDonald's, dates its birth to the first restaurant in Des Plaines.
''Up until the time we sold, there was no mention of Kroc being the founder,'' Richard McDonald told The Wall Street Journal in 1991. ''If we had heard about it, he would be back selling milkshake machines.''
Mr. Kroc died in 1984. Later, the company came to a meeting of the minds with Dick McDonald on who did what.
''We mutually agreed that Dick and Mac were the pioneers of McDonald's and helped to found the fast-food industry,'' said Chuck Eberling, a McDonald's spokesman. ''Mr. Kroc was the entrepreneur who founded what today is known as McDonald's Corporation.''
Years after the brothers sold to Mr. Kroc, someone asked Richard McDonald if he had any regrets. None, Mr. Halberstam relates.
''I would have wound up in some skyscraper somewhere with about four ulcers and eight tax attorneys trying to figure out how to pay all my income tax,'' Mr. McDonald replied.
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