A view from Dave Trott: Pareto with fries
A view from Dave Trott

Pareto with fries

Ray Kroc is famous as the man who founded McDonald’s.

In fact, he didn’t.

What he did was spot a great idea and franchise it.

It was the brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald, who invented the original concept.

They were the real creative thinkers.

They knew that real creativity isn’t adding more stuff.

Real creativity is taking stuff away.

Originally, their 27-item menu had included: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, barbecue beef, barbecue pork, chilli with tamales, chilli with beans, ham and beans, fried chicken, melted cheese fries, peanut butter and jelly fries.

Because conventional thinking was: the more choice you give your customers, the more customers you get.

Their stroke of genius was in spotting that 87% of their income came from just three items.

Hamburgers, fries, drinks.

If they concentrated on just those three things, they could make them faster and better than anyone else.

So they dropped everything else off the menu.

Which meant they could do those three things better and faster than anyone else.

Because they asked themselves this question.

What do we really get by including all the other stuff?

The last 13% of their income came from the most complicated part of the menu.

It meant that a customer’s order had to be taken before cooking could begin.

Whereas with just burgers and fries, the cooking could be done before the customer even ordered.

Service was almost instantaneous.

McDonald’s sales doubled, and then doubled again.

And that was the birth of the fast-food industry.

What they utilised was the Pareto principle.

In most areas of life, 80% of return comes from 20% of effort.

The creativity is in spotting the 20%.

In business, 80% of sales are usually made by 20% of staff.

And 80% of complaints often come from just 20% of customers.

In software, Microsoft noted that 20% of code contains 80% of the errors.

In sport, 20% of training provides 80% of the impact.

In health and safety, 20% of hazards account for 80% of injuries.

In healthcare, 20% of patients utilise 80% of resources.

In law enforcement, 20% of criminals commit 80% of crimes.

You’re probably thinking: yes, we know all that, so what?

Well, if we know it, how come we don’t act like it?

How come we sit in meetings where, instead of subtracting complexity, we add it?

Current thinking is called targeting, but it’s actually fragmentation.

Running more and more stuff in more and more places to more and more people.

The exact opposite of the Pareto principle.

That’s why it’s worth remembering the McDonald brothers.

They founded an entire industry by the creative use of reductionism.

Spotting that 87% of their income came from just three items.

Perhaps if we think about their reductionism, we can understand how the Pareto principle could apply to what we do.

As David Ogilvy said: "Strategy is sacrifice."

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.