Fred Turner, McDonald’s Former CEO and Honorary Chairman, Passes Away

January 08, 2013

When it comes to leaving a legacy at McDonald’s, as is often said of dedicated employees, franchisees and fans of the company, no one had more “ketchup in their veins” than Fred Turner. “You made a difference,” was one of his favorite phrases. In remembrance, Fred will always be honored as a man who made a profound difference in the lives of many and his tremendous impact on McDonald’s will be everlasting. 

“Fred’s contributions to McDonald’s are immeasurable,” said Don Thompson, McDonald’s President and CEO. “For more than fifty years, he was dedicated to operations excellence, training and developing a great tasting menu.  He worked side by side with Ray 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. Fred was a dedicated family man, a savvy business leader, and a loyal friend. We will miss him tremendously.” 

Turner, who passed away at age 80 from pneumonia complications on January 7, 2013, will be remembered for his passion for McDonald’s, his leadership in the business community and his philanthropic efforts. With his late wife Patty at his side, he founded and served as a lifelong trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which continues to serve families of critically ill children and children in underserved communities across the world. Fred was also a family man, and leaves behind his three daughters Paula, Patty Sue and Teri, and eight grandchildren.  

In 1956, Fred became one of McDonald’s first employees and was the architect who built on McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc’s dream. The Des Moines, Iowa native began as a grill man at the first restaurant in Des Plaines, IL, where he coined the mantra known as QSC – Quality, Service and Cleanliness—that is still utilized by all McDonald’s restaurants today. As his career progressed, he strived to achieve Ray Kroc’s dream of one day having 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants, and pushed himself and the company to further growth and success beyond anything they could have ever imagined.  

Fred quickly rose through the ranks, and became CEO of McDonald’s in 1974. Under his leadership, the company more than tripled the number of restaurants and opened in dozens of new markets worldwide. He also spearheaded employee development programs through the creation of the original Hamburger University (HU) in Elk Grove, IL. Now numbering seven worldwide, Hamburger Universities are an integral part of McDonald’s, and the HU located at McDonald’s Headquarters in Oak Brook, IL was renamed the Fred L. Turner Training Center in 2004 to honor his commitment to McDonald’s employees worldwide.