Hamburger University

By Timrock

Mr. Smith shook hands with Ray Kroc at the end of the first hamburger University course in 1961. The two men smiled as Kroc gave Mr. Smith a certificate. He looked down and read, “Certificate in hamburgerology with a minor in french fries.”

“You know Mr. Kroc, when you told me that I needed to attend this Hamburger University to start a McDonald’s franchise, I thought you were crazy,” Mr. Smith said. “But I can see now that you want consistency. It’s been an interesting course.”

“If I had a brick for every time I’ve repeated the phrase Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value, I think I’d probably be able to bridge the Atlantic Ocean with them,” said Kroc. “This course is the best way I could think of to make sure the McDonald’s in Alaska was the same as the one in Alabama.”

Kroc came to know the McDonald brothers as a traveling salesman. He sold milkshake machines that could make five shakes at once. There weren’t a lot of dinners that were too worried about speed, and eventually, the business dried up. However, one customer that bought five machines was the McDonald brothers. Kroc started working with them as an agent to promote franchising. His vision for the future was bigger than the McDonald brothers, who had nearly perfected the assembly line concept for making hamburgers quickly.

One thing he did differently than most other food chains at the time, was to sell one franchise at a time. Most other businesses sold store rights to an area. Giving the new owner little incentive to keep up the relationship. Kroc worked with franchisees on a per diner basis. If you maintained a good, clean diner with quality food, you would be eligible to start another restaurant. This model is more common today. This franchise set up also gave rise to the Hamburger University. To establish the standards from the beginning, he would train new franchise owners on how to run the store and even set up the suppliers for all their stores. He maintained that they needed to be partners, not just a one-off relationship. Eventually (and each side tells the story differently) Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers for a million dollars each and grew the business quickly.

Kroc had a vision of creating a consistent product so that people would know what to expect. His vision created an iconic brand that is globally recognized.

For you:

Let me be clear up front, this post is not an endorsement of McDonald’s nor am I getting any kickback from McDonald’s for this post. This is not to say I think he is an upstanding role model either. I simply read about his transformation from salesman to CEO and it was interesting how his vision impacted how he ran his business.
p.s. Mr. Smith is a fictional character.

Kroc had a vision for consistent food so that the customer knew they would get the same food everywhere they saw the golden arches. But how do you pass on a vision? Make it fun, memorable and consistent. Their cheesy Hamburger University concept (pun intended) gave new partners an opportunity to learn the system and see how their franchise should be run. By changing the relationship that new franchisees would experience because Kroc and the corporate office were helping them, he furthered his vision because he could help mold the consistency he sought.

Is your vision different from industry standard? How is it different and why is that important? What can you do to not only share your vision but help make it a reality by changing the way you pursue your dream?


I started writing short stories in elementary school, starting with a short story about twin track athletes. In college, I wrote for the college newspaper and studied communications. My first job out of college was with a magazine as an assistant editor, where I started a comic strip called City Boy.

My first published work, was a short essay entitled, Dream with Me, published in “The Art of Service” booklet put out by the Thayne Center for Service and Learning. I also published a three part series for families called “Family Parables – Wise Man Foolish Man.” This set is designed to be used by families to create discussion and learning as a family. I soon will publish my first novel, Love Like Alzheimer’s, a story of a family that is learning to love deeper as their beloved grandmother struggles with Alzheimer’s disease.

One thought on “Hamburger University
  1. Alan Curtis says:

    “Hamburgerology” is a great post. Thank you. Also, the first 4 chapters of you coming book leaves me impatient for June 22nd. This will be a great book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *