The History of McDonald’s


Patrick McDonald and sons Mac and Dick started it all

A man named Patrick McDonald opened a small food stand called “The Airdome” in Monrovia, California in the late 1930s. The stand served burgers and orange juice that cost ten and five cents, respectively. By 1940, Patrick’s sons Dick and Mac McDonald had inherited and been operating their father’s small business, and moved the restaurant’s location in San Bernardino, California. The brothers turned this into a restaurant whose featured dish involved barbecues, (with 25 barbecue items included in their menu), but the burgers still remained in their menu

From a barbecue restaurant into a successful burger joint

It was in the year 1948 where the true foundations of McDonald’s lay. When Mac and Dick McDonald realized that the burgers became more sought-after and successful sellers than their BBQ’s, the brothers reorganized their business into a burger restaurant. Their present menu since the refurbishing consisted of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, French fries, soft drinks, apple pies and milkshakes. It was quite a simple menu compared to their previous BBQ offering, but the very simplicity gave the business astounding success.

Five years after McDonald’s was established, the brothers opened its doors to franchising. Their first branch was erected in Phoenix, Arizona. Not long after, another branch opened in Downey, California, which is now McDonald’s oldest operating restaurant.

The ambitious Ray Kroc: revolutionizing fast food business

Enter Ray Kroc into the picture. Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman who found out that the McDonald brothers had previously bought eight of his multi-mixer milkshake makers. Fueled by curiosity, he decided to visit McDonald’s San Bernardino restaurant where all of eight milkshake machines were installed. This was in 1954 when the brothers were enjoying their franchising success.

Kroc saw the immense potential of McDonald’s and had plans to expand it with more franchising throughout the country. Despite Mac and Dick’s initial refusal, Kroc still went out of his way with the right to open more McDonald’s branches throughout the country. When his first McDonald’s restaurant opened in Des Plaines, Illinois, Kroc integrated his company to McDonald’s in 1955. This is where the foundation of McDonald’s Corporation was established.

When McDonald’s phenomenal success started to kick off, Ray Kroc set bigger, farther sights. In 1961, the ambitious businessman bought the entire company from the brothers for a total of $2.7 million. He had the goal of making McDonald’s restaurants the country’s number one fast food chain. In 1963, the mascot Ronald McDonald was created and designed to attract the little ‘uns. McDonald’s went public in 1965.

With Kroc and his people’s innovative marketing ideas, adaptability to respond to the demand of their customers, new introductions and additions to their menu (such as their breakfast menus and the “Happy Meal”, which offers free toys for the kids with every purchase), McDonald’s grew more rapidly than ever. In 1968, the Big Mac was born and has remained the chain’s signature best-seller.

The not-so-“happy” side of McDonald’s


Weathering the challenges from other burger chain rivals, McDonald’s has also had flopped menu items in the past such as McLean Deluxe – a healthier alternative to the usual menu item, but they cost them a fortune. And besides, customers were turned off by its taste despite the marketing claim.

Among the other “fails” include fajitas, onion nuggets, pizza and pastas (although the McSpaghetti has remained popular in the Philippines), the McHotdog (despite several attempts), and the Hulaburger (aimed at Catholics who don’t eat meat on Fridays — such a recipe for disaster). Despite the menu flops and several marketing failures, McDonald’s has survived them all. And it still continues to grow and expand worldwide.

Globalization has its own share of objections. McDonald’s, the very symbol of it, seems to be an easy target for such criticisms from anti-globalization groups from different countries which view McDonald’s as an insult to their own national culture. Animal rights activists also show strong condemnation towards the “inhumane” method that McDonald’s carries out in slaughtering chickens and cows. Its business practices, reportedly poor labor record and contribution to obesity were also thrown in, threatening to soil McDonald’s reputation.

Despite the flaks, McDonald’s continues to grow

But despite these mounting criticisms surrounding McDonald’s, it looks like no one’s stopping the restaurant chain from either racking up billions in revenue from its existing operations or its future plans. To date, there are thousands of McDonald’s branches in 119 countries, serving billions of people worldwide. McDonald’s biggest outlet was built in London, England on the site of the 2012 Olympics.

The small BBQ stand has come a long way, indeed, and has defined and changed the face of the fast food history.

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