In The Founder, the upcoming film about the origins of the McDonald’s global empire, traveling-salesman-turned-fast-food-magnate Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) comes off as both visionary and villain. The word “Faustian” appears repeatedly in movie reviews to describe the character that built a franchising juggernaut from a modest fast-food shack in San Bernardino, Calif. But first he had to wrest control of the company and its parabolic arches from brothers Dick and Mac McDonald.
If there is a hero in the film, it’s the burgers. (Best not to view on an empty stomach.) The biopic, based on the book of the same name and opening nationwide on Jan. 20, covers pivotal moments in the company’s mid-century history. Adweek picked a handful of more recent developments that show some challenges, changes and successes at the 14,000-restaurant chain, including promises this year from CEO Steve Easterbrook for a simpler menu and faster service, kind of like in the old days. The actual founders would be proud.