The unbelievable story behind the world's most famous food chain

food, the unbelievable story behind the world's most famous food chain

A tasty rags to riches story

Looking at McDonald’s now, with more than 38,000 restaurants in over 100 countries and a revenue of $22.16 billion (£16.7bn) in 2021, it’s hard to picture a time before it dominated the world. However, like all great success stories, its beginnings were tough – just two working class brothers with a dream to make $1 million before they reached 50. Here’s a look at how McDonald’s has transformed since its inception in the 1940s to present day.

a sign in front of a building

1940: McDonald’s Bar-B-Q

It all started when brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald opened a drive-in called McDonald’s Bar-B-Q on 14th and E streets in San Bernardino, California in 1940. Nothing like the restaurants of today, carhops delivered barbecued meat sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to customers’ cars. However, the McDonald’s brothers thought they could do better and in 1948 closed the restaurant and reinvented it to have a menu with only nine items.

food, the unbelievable story behind the world's most famous food chain

1943: root beer float

In the early years of McDonald’s – before things were streamlined – the menu included root beer floats, ham and baked beans, and other old-fashioned delights. While these options were phased out in the USA in 1948, some McDonald’s around the world still feel the influence of those early menu items. Today those visiting the Golden Arches in the Philippines have the option of coke, green apple, melon and lychee McFloats. In 2016, select New York and Seattle McDonald’s sold Dr. Pepper floats too.

a close up of a sign

1948: Speedee the mascot

In the days before Ronald McDonald was on the scene, the McDonald’s mascot was a miniature animated chef named Speedee. He appeared on the McDonald’s Bar-B-Q sign in 1948 and was still part of the company in 1955, along with the blue, red and white packaging.

a sandwich and fries are sitting on a table

1949: do you want fries with that?

McDonald’s French fries have garnered a reputation for being some of the best, yet they haven’t always been the same. In 1949 McDonald’s swapped out chipped potatoes for the stick thin fries of today, and in 1967, when Idaho-based Simplot Company became the company’s supplier, frozen fries took over. However, in 1992, fries cooked in beef tallow, which people claim taste better, were swapped for those cooked in vegetable oil.

a car parked in front of McDonald's #1 Store Museum

1955: the first official McDonald’s

In 1954 a Chicagoan, Ray Croc, visited the McDonald brothers and immediately saw its potential. He became their franchising agent, starting McDonald’s System Inc. The first of these new restaurants was 400 North Lee Street in Des Plaines, Illinois, near Chicago (pictured). The iconic building with golden arches was designed by Stanley Meston and first day sales totaled $366.12 (£276.75).

a group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant

1963: take a seat

It wasn’t until 1963 that customers could take a seat inside a McDonald’s restaurant. Prior to this the restaurants were drive-ins. The first McDonald’s to introduce a seating option was in Denver, Colorado. It would have looked similar to the seating pictured outside this McDonald’s in 1970. Although, we can’t guarantee all the McDonaldland crew – Hamburglar, Grimace, Mayor McCheese, Captain Crook and the Big Mac – were always there.

a cup of coffee on a table

1965: Filet-O-Fish

The controversial Filet-O-Fish arrived on McDonald’s menus nationwide in 1965. A breadcrumbed fish sandwich with tartare sauce and American cheese, was invented by Lou Groen, a McDonald’s Cincinnati franchisee in 1963. Its purpose was to elevate Friday sales numbers when Roman Catholics were abstaining from meat. It was an instant hit and rolled out nationally two years later.

a sandwich sitting on top of a cake

1968: the Big Mac

The famous Big Mac burger landed in 1968, developed by Jim Delligatti, owner and operator of the Pittsburgh restaurant. The Big Mac is made with two beef patties, “special sauce” (a variant of Thousand Island dressing), iceberg lettuce, American cheese, pickles and onions, served in a three-part sesame seed bun. Today the 508-calorie burger is still one of the company’s best-sellers with roughly 28 sold globally per second.


1969: golden arches

In 1969 McDonald’s changed its logo to the iconic red and yellow golden arch “M” the world recognizes today. The colors were chosen on purpose as psychologists believe red stimulates appetite and we associate yellow with happiness. The same year also saw a massive remodeling of the restaurants.

a sandwich sitting on top of a table

1973: Quarter Pounder

The Quarter Pounder and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese were added to the menu in 1973 and have stood the test of time. The burger is marketed towards those looking to enjoy a less processed meal. These days, it’s one of the only burgers to use fresh, unfrozen beef.

a sandwich and a cup of coffee

1975: Egg McMuffin

Egg McMuffins were added to the national menu in 1975 after being created by owner and operator Herb Peterson, who ran the Santa Barbara McDonald’s in California. He modeled the sandwich off his favorite breakfast dish eggs Benedict. By 1976, McDonald’s had perfected its whole breakfast menu. McDonald’s breakfast fans take note – the Egg McMuffin is the only option to use freshly cracked eggs.

a car parked in front of a sign

1975: Drive-Thru

Sierra Vista, Arizona was the first location of a McDonald’s drive-thru. It opened in 1975 because soldiers from the nearby Fort Huachuca weren’t allowed to get out of their cars in army uniform. McDonald’s solved the problem and they proved so successful it led to drive-thrus opening in Georgia and Oklahoma City. It wasn’t long before the format was incorporated at many other stores.

a cup of coffee on a table

1979: Happy Meals

The iconic Happy Meal was added to menus across the US in 1979. They originally had a circus wagon theme and came with the standard hamburger or cheeseburger, French fries, cookies, a soft drink and, of course, a toy. Over the years McDonald’s has given away Beanie Babies, Pokémon figures, Disney stickers and Lego toys. In fact, in 2011 McDonald’s was said to be the world’s largest distributor of toys.

food, the unbelievable story behind the world's most famous food chain

1983: Chicken McNuggets

McNuggets and dipping sauce were added to US menus in 1983 and their huge popularity meant McDonald’s took special measures to prevent them running out. Over the years there’s been controversy over what goes into McNuggets, agitated by a viral video of “pink slime”, however McDonald’s insists they’re nothing but 100% chicken breast. Even so, the 40-pack is the highest-calorie item on the menu, clocking in at 1,770 calories.

a bunch of different types of food on a table

1987: McDonald’s salads

McDonald’s decided to make salad an option in 1987, adding freshly-tossed ingredients with croutons and bacon bits to the menu. In 2003 it added premium salads and in 2005 salads landed on UK menus. However, they’re not necessarily the healthier option – some have higher salt and calorie content than McDonald’s burgers.

a group of people walking in front of a building

2001: McCafé

McCafés were introduced in the US in 2001, with the first to open in the Oak Brook, Illinois restaurant. Customers could now enjoy the relaxed feel of a café and sip on barista-made coffee while indulging in a piece of cake too. They were already going strong in Australia, where they were introduced eight years earlier in 1993.

a room filled with furniture and a large window

2011: McMakeover

The fast food giant undertook a massive store-by-store makeover from 2011 – the biggest in the company’s history – transforming it from a kids’ fast food joint into a family restaurant. Out went the fiberglass tables, industrial steel chairs and neon interiors and in came wooden tables, faux leather chairs and a more muted color palette (pictured: a renovated McDonald’s in Canada, 2011).

food, the unbelievable story behind the world's most famous food chain

2014: self-serve kiosks

Customers who didn’t want to line up to order their meal were given another option in late 2014 with the introduction of self-serve kiosks. The new technology meant that customers could walk in and instead of ordering from a cashier, they could use the touch screens to place their order and pay before picking it up from the counter.


2014: Create Your Taste

With the rollout of self-serve kiosks in 2014, there was a new campaign called Create Your Taste. This meant customers could build their own burger from more than 30 premium ingredients, buns and sauces. Ingredients on offer included bacon, caramelized grilled onions, chili lime tortilla strips, guacamole, and jalapeños. However, it slowed down operations and customers complained it was too expensive. It ended in 2016.

a plate of food

2015: kale salads

With superfoods like quinoa and kale increasingly on the rise, McDonald’s Canada decided to cash in and add them to salads in 2015. Gone are the days of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for 20 cents each, with healthy salads more typical of stores such as Whole Foods on the menu.

a tray of food and a cup of coffee

2015: all-day breakfast

For years McDonald’s customers anguished at not being able to order from the breakfast menu after 10:30am. But finally in 2015, the company listened to customers’ pleas. A limited all-day breakfast menu is now offered in certain stores and in the US it includes egg McMuffins, sausage biscuits with egg, hash browns and Hotcakes. Perfect if you’re wanting a cheeseburger with a side of sausage McMuffin.

a motorcycle parked on the side of a building

2015: home delivery

The ultimate game changer, keeping McDonald’s competitive with fast food delivery services such as Grubhub (in the US) and Deliveroo (in the UK), was McDonald’s delivery via UberEats. McDelivery, if you will. The company offered the service for years in Indonesia, but it wasn’t until 2015 it launched in New York and 2017 in the UK.

a group of people sitting at a table

2016: table service

In 2016 McDonald’s introduced table service to some restaurants, a service whereby customers order at the counter or self-service kiosk and waiters deliver it to the table. Its intention was to compete with more upmarket rivals such as Five Guys and Shake Shack.

a dining room table

2016: new decor

Building on the makeover in 2011, McDonald’s continued in 2016 to change its image and restaurant interiors. Six modern new designs were born: Allegro, Craft, Simply Modern, Fresh and Vibrant, Form, and Living Room. They were contemporary and colorful with bold graphics and easy-to-read digital menu boards.

a close up of a device

2017: mobile order and pay

In 2017 McDonald’s began testing mobile ordering and payments in selected US restaurants. By the end of the year it was rolled out across the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and China. The ordering service means customers are able to order food and pay via their phone before picking it up from the restaurant or having it delivered.

a car parked on the side of a building

2017: digital drive-thru

McDonald’s has even made its drive-thru menu boards digital. These boards change throughout the day to show customers the most timely and relevant deals and menu items. It also rolled out double-lane drive-thrus to make the experience more speedy. Very different to the days where there were paper menus that carhop waitresses offered through the car window.

a large empty room

2019: sleek new style

At the end of 2018 McDonald’s revealed plans to invest $6 billion (£4.5bn) on modernizing 14,000 restaurants before 2020. The sleek new designs are called Alphabet 1, Alphabet 2, Wood & Stone, Ray and Natural Integrity. The minimalist black, white and wooden color palette is a contrast to bright and bold color schemes in the past and is perfect for McDonald’s in the digital era.

Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network