Fascinating Things About McDonald’s
McDonald’s is one of the biggest brands in the world. But then, did you know these things?
McDonald’s is one of, if not the most, famous fast food names in the world. In fact, it’s one of the most renowned brand names in the world, period, and the iconic Golden Arches are recognized all over the world by people of every age and background. However, how did this huge company, with nearly 39,000 restaurants as of 2019, get started?
The first-ever McDonald’s was opened in 1948 by the brothers, Maurice (known as ‘Mac’) and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California. While it was a small restaurant, the brothers developed an innovative way of being able to sell their food fast and at a much lower cost to the customer than their competitors. This method is one that McDonald’s, and now many other fast food restaurants, still use today – self-service counters that eliminate the need for table service, and food that was cooked in advance, wrapped, and kept warm under a heat lamp rather than being cooked to order. This meant they could offer burgers to hungry customers for just 15 cents, around half what other burger joints charged. They called this system the Speedee Service System.
The McDonald brothers bought all their equipment from a local salesman named Ray Kroc, who noticed the large amounts of kit the brothers needed for such a small place. He spotted serious potential in this restaurant format and offered to begin franchising the concept on the brothers’ behalf. They had already been franchising and had eight restaurants in total, with even the design of the restaurant standardized.
Kroc’s first franchise restaurant was opened in Des Plaines, Illinois, on April 1955, and he launched the McDonald’s Corporation later that same year. The expansion was rapid. By the end of the 1950s, there were more than 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants across the United States. Because the McDonald brothers originally planned to keep their restaurant chain small and Ray Kroc was much more ambitious, he bought out the brothers’ stake in the company in 1961. They received $1 million each, and the company began trading publicly in 1965.
Shortly after Ray Kroc took over the company, the famous Golden Arches ‘M’ logo was introduced. In 1963, McDonald’s got its public face, Ronald, a clown in the restaurant’s colors of red, white, and yellow. Over the next 15 years, several of the McDonald’s menu most iconic products were also introduced – the Big Mac in 1968, McMuffins in 1973, Happy Meals in 1979, and Chicken McNuggets in 1983. The Extra Value Meal came later in 1993. It was initially introduced as a tie-in for the cinema release of Jurassic Park, and proved so popular that it has been a menu option ever since.
Co-founder Richard McDonald, the first-ever person to cook a McDonald’s burger, was ceremonially served the 50 billionth McDonald’s hamburger in 1984. It was served to him at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC by then-president of McDonald’s USA, Ed Rensi.
By 1967, McDonald’s was international, opening its first Canadian restaurant that year. More than 10,000 had opened across the world by 1988. By the 1990s, the company was expanding so fast that it was rumored a new McDonald’s opened every five hours. Over 1,100 were opened in 1995 alone. There are now nearly 39,000 in more than 100 countries.
McDonald’s also diversified in the 1990s and bought several other chains – Donato’s Pizza, Boston Market, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. They also considered purchasing the established sandwich chain Pret a Manger. However, by the late 2000s, McDonald’s had sold all these additional interests and was focusing once again on the McDonald’s brand. It retains a minority investment in Pret a Manger.
Over its history, McDonald’s has been the subject of much criticism; mostly, that the food is unhealthy, not good for children, and has contributed to increasing levels of obesity in the population of the United States. McDonald’s has responded to concerns about the nutritional value and fat content of their food in a number of ways – getting rid of ‘Super Size’ meal options, eliminating trans fats from their cooking oils and ingredients, and adding healthier products such as salads and fruit bags to the menu. The recipe for Chicken McNuggets was also changed in the mid-2000s after the release of the documentary ‘Super Size Me,’ which revealed that they had previously been made from machine-processed chicken. The nuggets are now made from 100% chicken breast.
However, not all of McDonalds’ diversifications and innovations have been successful. A low-fat burger introduced in the 1990s vanished without a trace, and a ‘deluxe’ line of more gourmet burgers was also a flop. Pizza, fried chicken, pasta, and fajitas were also included in a long list of failed experiments. The increasing popularity of rival chains such as Wendy’s, KFC, and Burger King also put pressure on the company.
In the early 2000s, McDonald’s focused less on expanding via opening new stores, and instead focused on growing the ones it already had. This proved extremely successful, with marketing campaigns featuring popular contemporary music artists and celebrities. Several new menu items introduced around this time are still on the menu today after proving popular, and the chain focused on clean, sleek restaurants with good customer service and tasty food. They also rebranded stores, with new interiors, new architecture, and new staff uniforms more in keeping with contemporary trends. It worked, and the company’s reputation and sales rebounded. This was one of the biggest rebranding moments in the company’s history, as it moved away from the ‘dine fast’ ethos of Ray Kroc and created restaurants where people were encouraged to spend time, linger, use the free in-restaurant WiFi, and socialize. Hard plastic seating was replaced with booths, fabric sofas, and movable, soft stools. Before, all the seats and tables had been bolted to restaurant floors. You can still grab food and go if you want to, but you don’t have to.
Now, more than 70 years old, McDonald’s remains an incredibly successful chain, with revenue of more than $20 billion annually.
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