The McDonald brothers did not invent the fast-food restaurant. Instead, they put together a collection of other innovations–disposable paper cups, a blender that could make five milkshakes at a time–into an efficient assembly line that they called “Levittown on a bun.”
Neither did Ray Kroc create the business that would make him one of the world’s wealthiest men. He saw potential in the McDonald brothers’ idea and acquired the right to franchise the business. The franchise model was a win-win. Budding business owners could reduce risk by using a tried-and-true business model (the “Bible” they received included forms for all major operations) and benefit from economies of scale in national marketing campaign. Similarly, the core business was able to offer consistency at its many locations while also allowing small experiments in local innovation (such as partnering with local organizations or creating special milkshakes for holiday fundraisers).
It took years for Ray’s bet to pay off, and during this time he earned his living selling Multimix blenders (the same ones that McDonald’s franchisees used to make their milkshakes). This reminded me of Adam Grant’s point in Originals that often entrepreneurs find ways to launch their business by moonlighting while maintaining a stable income.
The magnitude of Kroc’s business success was equalled by his personal problems, including alcoholism difficult marriages. Napoli focuses on the third of these marriages, and Joan’s philanthropy efforts after Ray’s death.
Although the pacing of the book is a bit uneven, it is a welcome look at a man who made McDonald’s a household name and the lesser-known woman whose charitable efforts are underappreciated even years after her death.