McDonald's first-ever menu from 1940 had just nine items - including 'tempting' burger

We’ve all got a go-to McDonald’s meal, whether you’re a fan of the Big Mac or you’re partial to a portion of McChicken Nuggets. But did you know that when the hugely popular fast-food chain first opened, barely any of the items we now know as Maccies staples were on the menu?

Richard and Maurice McDonald opened the very first McDonald’s restaurant in 1940 in San Bernadino, California, and it looked completely different to the way we know it today, as everything from the menu to the name has been changed over the years.

According to the McDonald’s website, the drive-in restaurant was known back then as ‘McDonald’s Speedee Service System’ and it was intended to be a place that “offered great tasting food, served incredibly quickly”.

And while the chain now serves a staggering 68 million people every day, the menu from over 80 years ago definitely wouldn’t attract the same number of hungry customers – as the choice was very limited.

There were just nine items available to purchase on the original Maccies menu, and while there’s so much more to choose from these days, the classics were still present even eight decades ago – with “golden French fries” and “thirst-quenching Coke” both on offer for just 10 cents (around 9p).

The original menu was much simpler to allow orders to be cooked quicker and it featured quaint food descriptions for the only two burgers available to buy – the “pure beef hamburger”, priced at 15 cents (13p), and the “tempting cheeseburger” which would have cost you 19 cents (17p).

McDonald’s has also always had “triple-thick shakes” to tempt buyers, and back in 1940 these were the most expensive item on the menu at 20 cents (18p).

food, mcdonald's first-ever menu from 1940 had just nine items - including 'tempting' burger

The original Mcdonald’s restaurant owned by Richard and Maurice McDonald

If a milkshake or a Coca-Cola didn’t take people’s fancy back in the day, they could have also enjoyed a “delightful root beer”, “steaming hot coffee”, a “full-flavour orange drink” and “refreshing cold milk”.

The restaurant was such a success that the brothers, nicknamed Dick and Mac, went on to franchise their business and quickly sold 14 franchises, with 10 of these becoming operating restaurants – not including their original location in San Bernardino.

Three years after opening the first location, the McDonald’s menu changed slightly at the franchise restaurants, with a few new items being added.

Frosted root beer, ice cream sodas and sundaes were added as well as ‘aristocratic hamburgers’ and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches served with French fries. They also sold two Mexican-inspired dishes – straight Chilli and Tamales and Chilli with French Fries.

food, mcdonald's first-ever menu from 1940 had just nine items - including 'tempting' burger

Ray Kroc

But it wasn’t until 1955 that the restaurants actually became the McDonald’s that we know and love today.

In 1954, a man named Ray Kroc visited the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino as the distributor of the Multimixer (a milkshake machine) and he was inspired by their roadside restaurant and the business potential it had.

He went on to buy the rights to franchise the brothers’ restaurants across the country and opened his first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955.

The first McDonald’s restaurant in the UK opened in Woolwich, south London, in October 1974.

According to the McDonald’s brothers who pioneered the fast-food concept ended up “fading into the background”.

They wrote: “After selling the business, the founders kept their original San Bernardino restaurant, to the annoyance of Kroc, which they renamed ‘Big M’, with the golden arches on the marquee sharpened to form a giant letter ‘M.’

“To gain his revenge, Kroc opened a McDonald’s around the block that eventually drove the brothers out of business.”

Since the fast-food chain’s humble beginnings, the menu has grown and grown as more restaurants have popped up, with new and special limited-edition items being added all the time – such as the new McCrispy, the chain’s first permanent chicken burger to be added to the menu in 15 years, which we recently tried.

Despite all the changes that have been made over the years, one thing seems the same – the humble burger that started it all is still as popular as ever with McDonald’s customers.

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