The McDonald’s formula that will revolutionise your business

Digital Strategy
More Thinking

McDonalds revolutionised the restaurant industry. It was once a single burger restaurant. Now it's chain is worth over $190 Billion and features ninth in the top 10 most valuable brands.

McDonald's enterprise dominates the fast food industry with a brand value of over $155 Billion.

The secret of McDonalds success is a revolutionary system that revolves around logic, persistence, and opportunity. It was introduced into the business by its founders the McDonald brothers.


"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge

The Founder

Based on a true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling salesman from Illinois, met the McDonald’s brothers, Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman), who were, at the time, managing their own burger restaurant in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was immediately impressed by the brothers' speedy system and agile ‘grill to counter’ process. He saw a fantastic franchise opportunity and maneuvers himself into a primary position within the business to create a multi-billion dollar empire.

Formula for success

Logic, persistence, and opportunity are the main factors which complement five key challenges most businesses face. These factors have the power to drive profitable growth in any business looking to scale. 

What, then, are the five challenges where the application of the McDonalds system will be transformative? 

1. Branding


“The name McDonald”. It is a nice sounding All-American name – a name that commands power." Ray Kroc

The McDonald’s name and the ‘Golden Arches’ are the company’s most iconic achievements. They stand as a great example of the power of a well-executed brand.

When Ray Kroc was asked why he didn’t just steal the McDonald’s brothers idea and set up his own restaurant using their secret formula, he said it wasn’t all about the way the food was prepared and delivered: the name mattered.

Effective branding is also about powerful, well-structured storytelling. People are hardwired to transit information through stories. They engage our emotions and impact our memory in a way that statistical information can’t. Storytelling enables the marketer to develop a deeper connection and unity with audiences. Above all, stories give a brand its soul and this allows brands to bring people together through common values and a shared sense of belonging. 


2. Processes


"Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get." - Ray Kroc

The persistence and attention to detail the McDonalds brothers took to optimise the time it took a burger to go from grill to service counter was fundamental to the success of the business. 


[Image credit: The Founder]

They mapped out (literally drew the floor plan) that illustrated this process and production method then tried to break it. The whole burger-to-counter turnaround process had to work like a well-oiled machine. They knew the value of every second lost in production and the impact this could have on both customer satisfaction and profitability.

This can be applied in any business using the same simple formula. Take a step back, look at your processes with a critical eye and establish exactly what or who your barrier to scaling is. Is it production? Is it customer service? Is it communication? Is it attitude? Is it all of these and more?

To fix this, start focusing on how to remove the problem. Be agile, be critical.


"You're only as good as the people you hire." - Ray Kroc


3. Efficiency


“If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean.” - Ray Kroc

Do you understand your numbers? Can you identify what directly influences the revenue? Do you know where your investment is best spent?

In 1948 the McDonald brothers debuted a new kitchen assembly line they called the “Speedee Service System.” They also measured revenue from every menu item and discovered the numbers influencing and boosting profits. They discovered that 87% of total sales came from hamburgers, fries, and pop. So they focused on what was selling/driving revenue. This was a bold move but one that paid dividends.

There were many challenges as the McDonald’s empire grew. The brand engaged the wrong franchisees, electricity costs spiralled out of control because of the process for making ice cream, there were disagreements with partners, financial issues, and also personal problems. 


“Take calculated risks. Act boldfully and thoughtfully. Be an agile company.” - Ray Kroc

So, optimising systems is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. Spotting inefficiencies, identifying opportunities and factoring in human frailty all need to be a priority. That sometimes means breaking the formula to improve it. And there are no shortcuts!

There is, however, one universal prerequisite to business growth, which McDonalds identified, and that’s automation. The limitations of human cognition, the biases and heuristics that lead to poor decision-making, can all be overcome by automation. For marketers it means using an automation platform like HubSpot without which businesses are unable to scale efficiently.  


4. Quality


“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.” - Ray Kroc

The McDonalds brothers strived obsessively for the optimal output. This obsession ran through every aspect of their business. From the precise location of the ketchup and mustard on the burger and the must-have two pickles per hamburger, to the perfection and attitude of every staff member, they refined even the smallest detail.  

Ray Kroc realised that to be a successful franchise business they would need to hire the right people with the right attitude, people who were hard-working, a good cultural fit and who had the mentality to adapt to evolving systems and processes. They also had to have a willingness and desire to succeed. 

These factors are, of course, essential in any business and they apply to choosing the right agency to help support you as you grow and expand into new markets. This guide goes into more depth about factors you need to consider which will help you make the right decision. 


"McDonald's is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl's face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image."


5. Consistency


“Look after the customer and the business will take care of itself”

One world describes the basis of McDonald's global success: consistency. This means having clear rules that cannot be broken and that everyone follows. For example: ‘There should always be two pickles on every burger’. 

It’s simple, but consistency in any business is critical. Consistency creates exceptional customer service, drives efficiency and is central to every aspect of a successful business from internal and external communication to high quality output, agile delivery, plus much, much more.

Like McDonalds, your working system must be efficient and deliver a consistently positive customer experience, to be profitable and scalable.


"If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you always put the customers first, success will be yours." - Ray Kroc

In marketing, brand consistency is essential. In practice, this means visual and message consistency but also consistent use of communication channels such as social media, SEO and paid search.

In summary

There are no shortcuts to success. There is only the logic of the way your processes are structured, the persistence to sustain and improve those processes and the ability to seize opportunities when they arise. 


"Perfection is very difficult to achieve, and perfection was what I wanted in McDonald's. Everything else was secondary for me." - Ray Kroc


Follow this simple formula and you will dramatically increase the probability that you will succeed.

Many businesses have lost opportunities from poor processes and a deficient infrastructure. It’s a common problem that can mean the difference between a profitable, scaling business and a stagnant business; in fact, businesses lose as much as 20 to 30 percent of their revenue each year due to inefficiencies.

Read more in our comprehensive guide, "How to Maximise Business Efficiency with the McDonald’s Methodology Methodology". And access free templates to conduct your own internal 'Process efficiencies audit'.




If you are looking for the best agency to help guide and support you on this journey, this guide has been written to help you navigate the minefield of choosing the right marketing partner. It includes a 16-point checklist of questions you should ask yourself before recruiting a sales and marketing agency. It should be the first step on your path to growth. 



Looking for more guidance on your marketing? Our team is here to help, so contact us today!


Contact the team at Cognition Agency for all your digital marketing requirements.