Brothers Maurice (Mac) and Richard (Dick) McDonald opened a small restaurant in Pasadena, California, in 1937. This was just 24 years after Henry Ford’s first assembly line began cranking out Model T’s in Highland Park, Michigan.
While I could not find any reference that the McDonald brothers used Ford’s assembly line as a model for their restaurant, nevertheless, they initiated their own high-speed, low-price assembly-line model for cooking and serving food.
Initially they sold hot dogs out of their Pasadena location, but in 1940 they opened a larger restaurant in San Bernardino. Similar to Ford’s philosophy of limiting his production of Model T’s to black (“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”), the brothers offered a very limited menu in their new location. It didn’t take long for their McDonald’s to become very popular.
In the early 1950s, the brothers began franchising their restaurant chain, but it wasn’t until Ray Kroc partnered with them in the mid-50s and bought them out in 1961 (one source says for $5 million and another $2.7 million) that McDonald’s took off nationally.
The McDonald brothers succeeded in large part because of the easy-to-understand, easy-to-follow and easy-to-manage systems that allowed even young, first-time workers to turn out burgers and fries in a predictable, customer-pleasing fashion time after time after time.
That’s what I refer to as McDonaldizing.
I adapted the term from the book “The McDonaldization of Society,” written by George Ritzer in 1993. It’s a good read and the information it shares about how industry, in general, continues to systemize to reduce costs and increase profits, is compelling. That the book was repurposed in 2013 in a 20th edition suggests the process is still much alive.
In a real sense, it’s taken the landscape maintenance industry longer to figure this out than many other industries.
Some of us in the landscape industry started McDonaldizing our companies years before the recession. These are some of the company names all of us instantly recognize because of their regional or national presence. Some of us needed the recession to kick us in our P&L statements and start us down that path.
Regardless, by this time in our industry’s development it should clear that, once our businesses get much beyond the mom-and-pop size, we need systems and standards to keep costs in line and still deliver acceptable profits for the risks and the efforts we assume as business owners.
The take-home message should be pretty clear.
If you own and operate a mowing/maintenance business of any size—a business that is dependent on employees performing repetitive tasks day after day—you must McDonaldize your operation.
The brutally competitive landscape industry, like the fast-food business, demands it.