A Brief Insight into McDonald’s Ray Kroc.

It has occurred to me that I have used this space more than a few times for non-train/non-travel material. I suppose the reason for that is—to my great regret, you may be sure— I’m traveling less than I once did. 

On the other hand, I find that more and more I’m recalling incidents in my life that people seem to find interesting or amusing and my instinct as a storyteller says many of those incidents worth sharing.

For example, I had a brief encounter with Ray Kroc, founder of the McDonald’s fast food empire, which included a glimpse into what makes a man like that tick.

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Back in early 1979, I had just been hired as General Manager of the Hawaii Islanders, Honolulu’s minor league professional baseball team. Our parent club, the San Diego Padres, was owned by Ray Kroc.

Just days after the formal announcement of my hiring, I was off to Orlando, Florida, to attend the baseball winter meetings.

I flew to San Diego, and continued on to Olando the next day aboard the Padre’s private jet, a Boeing 727, if you please.

When we landed at the Orlando Airport, there was a bus waiting to take our group of about 50 people to the downtown hotel where the meetings would be held.

We boarded the bus and I settled into a window seat close to the front. We all sat there, bus engine idling, for probably 15 minutes. Finally someone announced that we were waiting for Ray Kroc, who was on an important phone call.

A few minutes later, phone call completed, Ray Kroc boarded the bus and sat down in the empty seat next to me. I introduced myself as we got underway and we had quite a nice chat for most of the half-hour ride to our hotel.

Suddenly, Ray Kroc literally threw himself across my lap and pressed his nose up against the window of the bus. I was startled, of course, and sat frozen, not sure what to do. After several seconds, Kroc resumed his seat, still without a word of explanation.

Fumbling impatiently in his jacket pocket, he withdrew a small, well-worn, leather-bound notebook, which he opened. With the stub of a pencil, he began scribbling on one of the blank pages.

“This time of day,” he said, speaking to no one in particular, “there should have been more cars there!”

That’s when I got it! We had been passing a McDonald’s restaurant and Ray Kroc was counting the cars in the restaurant’s parking lot.

He turned and stared at me. “And not one car on the Drive-Thru.”

Then, muttering to himself, he resumed scribbling in his notebook.

And now we know how McDonald’s manages to sell all those hamburgers!