Greatest Franchising Entrepreneurs of All Time

UPDATED: May 6, 2008
PUBLISHED: May 6, 2008

Ray Kroc 1902-1984 Ray Kroc died in 1984, just a few short months before McDonald’s sold its 50 billionth hamburger. One of the most well known success stories in American business history, Kroc developed a sophisticated operating system that essentially put hamburgers on an assembly line. He perfected processes and imposed such discipline on the production of his products that french fries purchased in any one of his restaurants would be indistinguishable from those purchased in another. Often copied but never surpassed, McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of fast-food restaurants, serving more than 54 million customers daily.

Quote: "A quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves."

Harland Sanders 1890-1980 More than a good cook, Harland Sanders was an instinctive businessman who saw the possibilities for franchising his fast-food chicken restaurants at a time in his life when he almost thought of retiring. The now-global franchise of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) began as Sanders’ Café, a modest gas station kitchen in Kentucky. After a fire, he rebuilt with a restaurant and hotel that were popular with travelers—until a new interstate highway diverted traffic away from the spot. Sanders, then in his 50s, hung up his apron and prepared for retirement. Convinced there was a larger market for his secret-recipe chicken, he set about selling it to restaurant owners door-to-door. What makes KFC’s story unique is how the successful fast-food chain made the quick leap from homegrown restaurant to international franchise. Sanders, named an honorary Kentucky colonel, sold his interest in the U.S. company in 1964 when he was 74. With his trademark white hair and goatee, double-breasted suit and black string tie, he remained an internationally recognized image for the fast-food chicken chain and served as spokesman into his late 80s. At 87, he testified against mandatory retirement before the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Quote: "Tell customers there's a secret in your product, and you've got their interest."

Juan Trippe 1899-1981 Pan American founder Juan Trippe believed international airline travel was something to be enjoyed by everyone, not just the rich. That’s why he introduced a “tourist class” fare from New York to London, cutting the ticket price by more than half. He ushered in the commercial jet age by commissioning jet aircraft using new jet engines, which cut travel times and carried twice as many passengers. Trippe realizing the impact, stated matter-of-factly: “In one fell swoop, we have shrunken the earth.”

Quote: "If you build a strong business, you can push suppliers to deliver products a quantum leap beyond anything originally envisioned." (Trippe applied such pressure to Boeing, which created the 707 and 747)

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