Perhaps you’ve seen one of those plaques they have at McDonald’s that commemorate Ray Kroc as the “founder” of the global restaurant chain. And perhaps you asked yourself “If his name is Kroc, why’d he name his restaurant ‘McDonald’s?’”
The answer? Because the “founder” of McDonald’s didn’t found shit.
McDonald’s was started in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1940 by brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald. Having owned restaurants in the past, they realized they could streamline their operation by offering only a handful of items - burgers, fries, shakes, and apple pies - and by eliminating custom orders. Every burger came with the same toppings, so while you didn’t necessarily get exactly what you wanted, you got it a lot faster. They called it the “Speedee Service System” and it is often regarded as the genesis of modern fast food. Within a few years, the brothers opened a handful of franchises in the region.
Kroc was a salesman of milkshake machines - the kind used in McDonald’s - and when he learned what the McDonald brothers were doing, he encouraged them to take the franchise national (the original idea being that if they had more locations, he could sell them more milkshake machines). They balked at the extra work that would entail, so Kroc offered to do it for them. He became their franchise agent and began aggressive expansion into many regions of the United States.
Within a few years, the chain was booming but the McDonald brothers were weary of their little chain becoming a national powerhouse. So in the 1960’s, they agreed to sell their interest to Kroc with one caveat: they wanted to keep their original location in San Bernidino.
Kroc agreed but was incensed at not having complete control over the McDonald’s empire - even if it was just a single restaurant. So in 1962, he opened a McDonald’s franchise across the street from the original location and promptly ran it out of business. With the last remnants of the old guard swept away, Kroc declared himself the “founder” of McDonald’s, despite not having started the original restaurant, nor being the first to franchise it.
It’s also worth noting that Kroc was a colossal asshole.
What a dick.