For a while, McDonald’s was in the habit of approximating how many burgers it had sold over the years on its signage. According to the company’s official timeline, it sold its 100 millionth burger in 1958, its 400 millionth in 1950, and its 700 millionth in 1962 (We’re sure its methodology to accurately approximate how many burgers were sold was sound). Over the years the chain has updated its signs to reflect the number of burgers sold: In 1963 the billionth burger was sold, live on the Art Linkletter TV show, no less.
The number continued to rise: 5 billion in 1969, 15 billion in 1974, 30 billion in 1979, and 45 billion in 1983. After that, the company simply began adding 5 billion to the number every year, topping out at 99 billion in 1993. Sometime after that, the signs were updated to “BILLIONS AND BILLIONS SERVED,” and they haven’t changed since.
We can officially say that yes, at all of its worldwide locations since day one, McDonald’s has served well over 100 billion burgers. But this begs a bigger question: Why did it stop updating its burger count? One website has estimated that by 2010, 247 billion had been sold. McDonald’s hasn’t been especially forthcoming on the reason, but there are a few theories floating around, including McDonald’s becoming concerned with its image of being too big, and it simply losing count. Neither of these are especially plausible; our guess is that management simply realized that saying “billions and billions” communicates the same message as pinpointing the exact number, and that keeping track of the amount sold and updating nearly every sign system-wide was more trouble than it’s worth.