The film begins in 1954 with
Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) as a struggling, travelling sales assistant for a milkshake
mixer company. He observes how insufficiently run most drive-ins that he sells
to are. Until one day he gets a call to order an abnormally large number of
mixers in San Bernardino, he visits California to find the highly popular walk-up
restaurant McDonald’s. He quickly becomes interested in the quick service,
high-quality food, and family-friendly environment.

Ray speaks with the brothers
behind the business, Richard “Dick” McDonald (Nick Offerman) and Maurice “Mac” McDonald
(John Caroll Lynch) who have created a strong work ethic in the working
environment. They explain how they thought of the concept of McDonald’s and how
they developed the service to be lightning fast while still having high quality
meals that are prepared in 30 seconds.  

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Kroc becomes impressed with their system and
sees franchise potential, he eventually convinces the brothers to allow him to handle
their franchising attempts on the condition that all adjustments be approved by
the McDonald’s brothers in writing, the brothers hesitantly agree thinking back
to failed franchising attempts.

Ray begins building in Des Plaines, Illinois.
He aims at middle-class investors after not having committed wealthy investors and
sees new franchises opening across the Midwest, he soon meets Rollie Smith (Patrick
Wilson) from Minnesota who wishes to invest with his wife Joan (Linda Cardellini),
who Ray becomes allured to.

Despite the success of the franchise, ray
faces financial difficulties and asks the brothers for a higher percentage of
the profits. Ray finds a solution to this by becoming involved in real estate,
with the assistance of Harry Sonneborn (BJ Novak) his sales office is renamed
to the Franchise Realty Corporation.

Back at home Ethel and Ray continue to have a
passive-aggressive relationship and later files for divorce. Ethel can acquire
all his assets but cannot have a single share of McDonald’s.

Ray introduces a cost-saving insta-mix into
the McDonald’s restaurants which the brothers don’t agree upon. They become
shocked to learn that ray is now the president and CEO of a corporation with
landholdings in 17 states which leads Mac to go into a diabetic shock. Ray visits
him in hospital and hands them a blank check with the intention of buying the
company