Former McDonald's CEO Fred Turner Dies

Lauded as Architect of 'Quality, Service, Cleanliness' Operations Model

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Former McDonald's CEO and Honorary Chairman Fred Turner died Monday from complications from pneumonia, the company announced. He was 80.

Fred Turner
Fred Turner

Mr. Turner became president-chief administrative officer in 1968 and was named McDonald's president-CEO in 1974. He was chairman-CEO from 1977 to 1987. He remained chairman until 1990, and senior chairman until 2004 when he retired and became honorary chairman.

Mr. Turner was in top posts during a time when McDonald's was on a massive and unprecedented expansion course. He is lauded as the architect of the chain's "quality, service, cleanliness" operations model -- one that led the chain to be seen as an innovator in operations and that helped the Golden Arches grow to be the biggest restaurant chain in the world. McDonald's grew both domestically and internationally under Mr. Turner's eye, and it more than tripled its store count alone during his tenure as CEO. Also during his tenure, the number of locations not only grew exponentially, but so did the company's marketing budget.

He was named Ad Age 's "Adman of the Decade" in 1990, not just because of his operations prowess, but because he led the company as it became one of the biggest, most ubiquitous and emulated marketers, not only in the '80s but in in advertising history.

But the journey wasn't without drama on Madison Avenue. Mr. Turner in 1981 made the decision to fire Needham, Harper & Steers, the agency that created one of McDonald's most well-known and successful slogans, "You Deserve a Break Today," shocking many in the industry. He also oversaw the introduction of Chicken McNuggets in the early '80s -- yet another innovative move on McDonald's part, this time in pioneering finger foods in the fast-food business.

"Fred's contributions to McDonald's are immeasurable," said Don Thompson, McDonald's president-CEO. "For more than 50 years, he was dedicated to operations excellence, training and developing a great-tasting menu. He worked side-by -side with Ray [Kroc] to open clean, welcoming restaurants where families could enjoy a high-quality meal and a special time together. Our more than 34,000 restaurants around the world serve as a testament to Fred's business genius and his strong commitment to our customers."

Mr. Turner wrote McDonald's first operations and training manual, a tome that continues to be a guide for McDonald's operations, as well as for the chain-restaurant industry. In 1961, he spearheaded the inception of McDonald's Hamburger University, the chain's training program for franchisees, managers and company employees.

"Fred was a passionate believer in training and development. He mentored and inspired so many of us," said Jeff Stratton, president, McDonald's USA. "Fred constantly raised the bar higher, and challenged our franchisees, suppliers and people to work together and continuously improve the customer experience in our restaurants."

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