The leadership of Ray Kroc to drive catering sales

March 20, 2012 | by Erle Dardick

I have been reading a lot about Ray Kroc these days. As I dig deeper into his story, I become more fascinated with his meticulous attention to detail. Like all entrepreneurs, he struggled to make his venture work. He went through the growing pains, set the culture and set a clear direction for his people. He fought hard.

As an entrepreneur and working on my ninth business, I can identify with his relentless desire to succeed. He was a fantastic businessman and very passionate about getting it right.

If Ray were here today, I wonder what he might tell us about the current state of our multi-unit restaurant industry? Would he be happy with the outcome of what McDonald’s stands for today? Would he be proud? What would he say about McDonald’s building a catering revenue channel for his brand?

From what I have read and learned about Ray through other people’s words, I would venture to say that Ray would have mixed emotions today based on where his brand stands. Sure, he might be proud of the stock price. Or would he? I think he would be horrified at all the negative tweets and comments.

Knowing Ray, he would do something amazing to set it all on the right track, just as great leaders such as Howard Schultz and Ron Shaich have done with both Starbucks and Panera Bread. Oh, and if Ray saw the traction that Panera is getting in regard to their catering operations, he would want a piece of that market for sure. Because that’s what he was about. Being in front.

In the beginning, for Ray, it was all about looking after his customers. He wanted growth, but not at the expense of diluting his brand and experience. Of course, in the 1950′s and 1960′s, the world was a different place. I am certain that if Ray had known McDonald’s was to become the fast food giant that it has, he would have wanted it to do so only if it was in the best interest of his customers.

He had a vision for the business, for the systems, for the experience and for his internal culture.

Today, as McDonald’s continues to be the largest hamburger chain in the world, it still amazes me that the organization continues to adopt to the ever changing needs of our consumers. In my opinion, McDonald’s has done a superb job of trying to keep up with the trends, and of trying to morph their menus toward fast casual.

Of course, to move a system this large to a new model is not only difficult, but it requires a tremendous amount of investment and gumption. McDonald’s may not be the healthiest choice in the marketplace yet, but I predict that in the next 10 years, they will move into the top position of the fast casual market. They will do it because they have the real estate and the brand, and consumers are going to only shop there if they continue to adapt to their ever changing dietary needs.

So, this brings me to my next question? Will McDonald’s offer catering services that are scaleable across the brand? What will the program look like? I believe that they already have; however, they have not hired the right leadership to take them the rest of the way.

I believe that if any of our community leaders decide to pursue catering as a serious business, they would see a lift in their sales that our industry has not seen since the day’s of franchising and drive-thru. But, it doesn’t matter what I believe. Or does it?

Like Ray, I too am an entrepreneur. And so, I will live and die by my conviction and my leadership. As I put this article to rest, I call out to all of you in a restaurant leadership position to really take a hard look at the facts. Catering is here to stay. If we don’t do it, the grocery segment will (as they already are).

Ray would want us to compete and compete hard.

Tell me. What do you think? This is a great debate!

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Consultant / Analyst , Curbside & Takeout , Customer Service / Experience , Industry Services , Operations Management , Software

Erle Dardick / Erle Dardick is a 15-year catering veteran, business turn-around expert and author, and is best known for helping multi-unit restaurant executives create successful catering revenue channels. Erle founded MonkeyMedia Software to provide catering solutions to multi-unit restaurant operators. He also is the author of “Get Catering and Grow Sales! One Monkey’s Perspective: Catering Defined for the Multi-Unit Restaurant Executive.”
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