More than any chain, McDonald’s is what you probably think of when you think of the word “behemoth.” It’s simply massive, and is most likely the only company that just about everybody on earth has heard of. But where did it come from? What’s its deal, really? The company has a wild history and has struggled throughout its existence to remain on top and relevant, and there are plenty of facts about this fast food giant that you most likely don’t know.
Let’s start at the beginning. Back in 1940, brothers Mac and Dick McDonald took over their father’s 3-year-old Monrovia, Calif. restaurant, which had a 25-item menu, and moved the entire building 40 miles east to San Bernardino. Eight years later, realizing that burgers were the top seller, they streamlined the menu and the entire process: the menu was whittled down to hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, shakes, soft drinks, and apple pie, everything was self-service, and the kitchen was run like an assembly line, revolutionary for the time.
Four years later, they decided that a new building was necessary to keep the profits rolling in. With their eye on maximum efficiency and profit potential, the brothers hired a well-known architect and mapped out every inch of what the new restaurant should look like: Red and white ceramic tile, stainless steel, glass, pulsing neon, and the icing on the cake, two massive arches trimmed in yellow neon that they referred to simply as “the golden arches.” They began selling franchise rights while still in the design phase. (It’s worth noting here that while the McDonald brothers have gone down in history as rather simple-minded restaurant owners, they were in fact way ahead of their time, and laid the blueprints for the chain we know today.)
In 1954, milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc entered the picture. He noticed that the McDonalds had purchased eight of his mixers for their restaurant, and was blown away by what he saw when he paid them a visit. He convinced the brothers to sell the company to him and immediately undertook a national expansion plan. There were 34 restaurants in 1959, and by the following year, there were 102.
Kroc stayed on as CEO until 1973, and spearheaded one of the fastest and most legendary expansions in restaurant history, going down as quite possibly the most influential man in the history of fast food. Since then, McDonald’s has firmly cemented its place as the world’s leading fast food chain (even though Subway actually has more locations), and there are still plenty of facts and figures about the chain that aren’t common knowledge. Read on to learn 11 of them.
It Started as a Barbecue Restaurant
The original McDonald’s featured a hickory pit and served barbecued beef, ham, and pork, along with chili, tamales, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
They Pioneered Fast-Food Breakfasts
After market research showed that consumers were looking for a quick breakfast, they added the Egg McMuffin to the permanent countrywide menu in 1972, making it the first nationally available fast-food breakfast sandwich. By 1987, one-quarter of all breakfasts eaten out-of-home in the U.S. came from McDonald’s.