FOOD: The Burger That Conquered the Country

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Ronald is not the only weapon in McDonald's children's crusade. Executives decided early on to place napkins and straws out on the counter, instead of serving them with the food. "It became the kid's job to get the straws and the napkins," says Turner. "It cost a lot, but it was nothing compared with the repeat business we get because kids insist on going there." Indeed, not a few mothers have found that their children prefer Ray Kroc's burgers to Mom's own. "It's a fun place," says a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 13-year-old. "It's like a circus. I feel happy here."

Ray Kroc codified McDonald's policies into a kind of fast-food religion summed up in the initials QSC (for Quality, Service, Cleanliness), a set of letters that every McDonald's employee is taught to utter reverently. The stamp of Kroc's personality, and business genius, is clearly on those letters, especially C. Says Kroc: "We made sure that no McDonald's became a hangout. We didn't allow cigarette machines, newspaper racks, not even a pay telephone. We still don't. We made the hamburger joint a dignified, clean place with a wholesome atmosphere."

Cleanliness is also a personal fetish of Kroc's that has become an awe-inspiring legend throughout the chain. Last month, on one of his incessant inspection tours around the empire, he walked into a McDonald's in Canada —and exploded like a raw potato in hot grease. "There was gum on the cement patio, cigarette butts between the wheel stops for the cars," he says. "There was rust on the wrought-iron railing, and the redwood fence needed to be restained. I went in there and said to the manager: 'You get somebody to mop this goddamned floor right now. And if you don't, I'll do it myself.' "

A Hamburger Degree. Such visits from Kroc are only one of the trials that a McDonald's licensee must endure. His courses at Hamburger U.. though short, are no snap; they cover everything from how to scrape a grill to how to post a double-entry ledger. "This is a hard-working place," says "Dean" Donald Breitkrentz, 36, a onetime candymaker. "Some of these people put in 14 hours a day. They get up at 6:30 in the morning to study."

On a recent morning, one of the school's eight instructors lectured on how to service an Everpure T-9 water filter, which cleans the water used in soft drinks. Students scribbled notes as furiously as if they were taking hamburger orders from a busload of Cub Scouts. Slides flashed across a giant screen detailing every movement of the hand required to maintain the filter. One student asked timidly: "How much charcoal do we put in it?" The instructor replied: "The bag is premeasured Use it all."

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