All Sections

Home | Mike Cote's Business Notebook

Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Manchester's McDonald bros. battle Kroc in 'The Founder'

January 07. 2017 7:38PM
Maurice "Mac" McDonald pats his brother, Richard, on the back as he describes the McDonald's fast-food concept to Ray Kroc, portrayed in the film by Michael Keaton. (COURTESY)

MICHAEL KEATON will be the featured vulture in two major films this year. Expect both to play dirty.

Keaton will portray comic book villain The Vulture in this summer's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," the latest webslinger reboot.

Moviegoers will see Keaton first as Ray Kroc in "The Founder," a biopic about how milkshake-mixer salesmen wrestled control of a small chain of California burger joints from a couple of guys from New Hampshire.

The film chronicles how Kroc convinced Richard and Maurice McDonald to take him on as a business partner - intrigued by the brothers' no-frills restaurant system - and how Kroc's hard-driving tactics led to his takeover. And world domination.

"There's a wolf in the hen house. And we let him in," Richard "Mac" McDonald tells Maurice in a trailer for the film, which was originally scheduled to be released last August. It's set to hit theaters Jan. 20.

Nick Offerman ("Parks and Recreation") plays Richard McDonald. John Carroll Lynch ("The Drew Cary Show") is cast as Mac McDonald. The film was directed by John Lee Hancock ("The Blindside") and written by screenwriter Robert D. Siegel ("The Wrestler") and has already earned acclaim at film festivals.

"The Founder" won't bring in superhero-size box office numbers, but it appears to do a good job telling a story that the McDonald's Corp. would rather bury with the McSalad Shaker, the McLean DeLuxe and McPizza. It was a bumpy road to McDonaldland from the day the McDonald brothers agreed to partner with Kroc in 1955 until he bought them out for $2.7 million six years later.

The McDonalds, both graduates of Manchester High School West, have long been little more than a footnote in McDonald's official lore, with Kroc widely considered to be the founder of McDonald's. The film clearly shows how the Golden Arches would never have existed without them - and suggests that McDonald's likely would never have been more than a small regional company had Kroc not come along with a bolder vision than its founders.

The McDonald brothers did give Kroc a strong foundation. When Richard McDonald died in 1998 at age 89, the then-Bedford resident got props from the New York Times, which also mentioned Maurice McDonald.

"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."

The film comes at a time when McDonald's is struggling to compete with changing tastes, introducing all-day breakfast to boost traffic. It also could soon lose the crown as the world's most valuable restaurant company, Bloomberg reported last week.

"It is only a matter of time before Starbucks overtakes McDonald's as the largest market cap restaurant stock, although likely not in 2017," Nomura analyst Mark Kalinowski told Bloomberg. He predicts the coffee chain will increase its global restaurant count by 8.4 percent this year. Starbucks has about 25,000 locations, compared to 36,000 for McDonald's.

The original Starbucks, which opened in Seattle in 1971, was founded by Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker. Howard Schultz, the company's current CEO and chairman, later bought and expanded the company.

The Starbucks website makes no mention of Baldwin, Siegl and Bowker in the company history, only Schultz. Perhaps some drama could be extracted from those old beans.

Mike Cote is business editor. Contact him at 668-4321 ext. 324 or

Business Movies History NH People Food Manchester

More Headlines

Mass. utility sued over gas explosions

WW II era aircraft on display in Laconia