Fred Turner

Fred L. Turner
Fred Turner.png

Fred L. Turner
Vital Information
Nationality American
Born: (1933-01-06)January 6, 1933
Birthplace: Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.
Died: January 7, 2013(2013-01-07) (aged 80)
Deathplace: Glenview, Illinois, U.S.
Alma Mater: Drake University, B.A. 1954
Career information
Business executive, and former Operations VP, then CEO, McDonald's Corporation, philanthropist
Appeared in/
Involved with:
McDonald's Corporation
Co-establishing Hamburger University with McDonald's CEO Ray Kroc (1961)

"I think the ability to focus is a thread that runs through so-called successful people. And that's something that can be developed. It can be self-taught."

- Fred Turner, McDonald's executive and former CEO

Frederick Leo Turner (January 6, 1933 – January 7, 2013) - who liked to be known simply as Fred.[1] - was a restaurant industry executive, chair who served as CEO of McDonald's.[2] He is credited with helping to massively expand McDonald's, introducing new meals and setting service standards for the company and its employees.[3] In 1961, Fred helped co-establish Hamburger University, a training ground for McDonald's restaurant employees, with McDonald's CEO and corporation founder Ray Kroc. Today, there are seven Hamburger Universities globally, including one at the company's home office in Oak Brook, Illinois, renamed the Fred L. Turner Training Center upon his retirement in 2004.

Fred Turner and Ray Kroc.jpg
Fred and McDonald's Corp. founder Ray Kroc, surveying the blueprint plan for another fast food franchise in the 1970s.

Personal ilfe/education and family

Turner was born in Des Moines. He grew up ther and then moved to Chicago. He attended high school at Dowling Catholic High School, and graduated from Drake University in 1954; that June 22, he married fellow Drake graduate Patricia Shurtleff. The couple had three daughters. Patricia died on October 9 2000.[4]

Career at McDonald's

Starting out at McDonald's as a cook at Ray Kroc's flagship Des Plains, IL restaurant in 1956 after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1954, Fred quicky rose in rose in rank in the organization to became VP and manager of Operations by 1958, where he had charge of 34 restaurants. That year, as Operations VP, Turner authored the first Operations and Training Manual that continues to be the blueprint for restaurant operations today. Fred would continue toe rise to the positions of Executive Vice President in 1967, then President and Chief Administrative Officer in 1968, Chief Operations Officer (CEO) in 1973, where he replaced McDonalds Corporation founder and close friend Ray Kroc, and then chairman in 1977; he would become Chief Executive Chairman upon Kroc's death in 1984. [5]

During his time as chief executive — when the number of restaurants more than tripled — he expanded McDonald’s well beyond the early model of the walk-up hamburger stand. Under his watch as CEO, the company increased indoor seating and introduced the drive-through; the Happy Meal for children, complete with a toy; and another tasty lunch menu item, Chicken McNuggets.

One of Mr. Turner’s biggest successes was the introduction of a McDonald’s breakfast companywide. Although some local franchises were already offering a breakfast menu, there was debate internally about how aggressively the company should promote it, Mr. Starmann recalled: “He made a big, bold decision — we’re going on national TV. He said, ‘The breakfast train is leaving the station — lead, follow or get out of the way.’ ”

In 1975, the company placed the Egg McMuffin on the national menu, and breakfast sales soon took off.

Fred Turner Ronald McDonald.jpg
CEO Turner with "Chief Happiness Officer", mascot and ambassador, "Ronald McDonald".
By the time Turner had retired in 2004, there were 31,500 restaurants worldwide. Indeed, even by the corporation’s tenth birthday in 1965—which was also ten years since Ray Kroc, the corporation's founder, had hired Turner as a grillman in his very first franchise outside Chicago—McDonald’s was changing the American landscape. A billion hamburgers had been sold by then, ground out from 100,000 cattle grazing the plains of Kansas or Texas. [6] and quickly rose through the ranks. He was named Operations Vice President in 1958, when the firm had only 34 employees.[7] In that role, he established strict guidelines for how McDonald's hamburgers and other products had to be served - including that fries "had to be precisely 0.28 inches thick",[8]

Charitable endeavors

Turner had many diverse interests and supported countless philanthropic activities. He was a co-founder and life trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities, dedicated to serving families of critically ill children and providing care to children in underserved communities. Turner and his late wife Patty were avid music lovers and he was a significant supporter of Drake University in Des Moines, endowing a professorship in jazz studies and the Fred and Patty Turner Jazz Center, which opened on campus in 2011.

A self-described history buff, Turner was actively involved in multiple efforts to honor American veterans and educate future generations. He led the effort to create two aircraft exhibits at O'Hare International and Chicago Midway International Airports as a lasting tribute to the sacrifices made in World War II. In 2009, Turner also sponsored the restoration of an SBD Dauntless dive-bomber for the Pacific Aviation Museum in Honolulu, HI. [9]


Turner died on January 7, 2013, the day after his 80th birthday, from complications from pneumonia.[10] He was survived by three daughters, Paula Turner, Patty Sue (Bob) Rhea, Teri Turner and eight grandchildren.


  1. Taken from the obituary in The Economist, 26th January 2013, which describes him as Mr Turner, or rather, as he hoped everyone would call him, Fred - accessible here
  2. Fred L. Turner
  3. See the obituary in the Economist magazine, accessible here
  4. "Patricia A. Turner Obituary" September 18 2011
  5. Fred L. Turner, Innovative Chief of McDonald’s, Dies at 80. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2013-01-08.
  6. [1] 'Pacific Aviation Museum Report'
  7. Obituary in The Economisy, January 26th 2013, accessible here
  8. Taken from the obituary in The Economist, January 26th 2013, accessible here
  9. Fred L. Turner, Innovative Chief of McDonald’s, Dies at 80. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-01-08. Retrieved on 2014-08-09.
  10. Fred L. Turner, McDonald's Honorary Chairman and Former CEO, Passes Away. (2013-1-07). Retrieved on 2014-8-09.
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