McDonald’s: The History Behind the Famous Brand

History of McDonald's

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McDonald’s, we are already familiar with the term, isn’t it? Surely, it excites the foodie in us. Right from Big Mac, double cheeseburgers, McGriddles Breakfast sandwiches to Happy Meal and beverages, there is a whole lot of menu that we all love. But do you know that this colossal food empire just started from a simple food stand and eventually made its way up towards success. The logo which has an immense visual appeal has a story behind it. Not just this but there are many more interesting things hidden in the history of McDonald’s that you would find interesting. This is exactly the reason why we have compiled the history of McDonald’s or let’s call it the “story of McDonald’s“. 

In this article, we have start with what is McDonald’s?, to give a brief overview of its the brand. It also discusses the foundation of the empire, the contributions made by different people, the evolution of the McDonald’s logo, timeline and other things from its history. Let’s dive into the story of McDonald’s directly without preoccupying you with other things. 

What is McDonald’s? 

  • McDonald’s is the largest American fast-food chain in the world headquartered in Chicago, Illinois in the United States.
  • It serves 69 million customers (about twice the population of California) on a daily basis. It has a brand value of approximately 40.3 billion dollars (about $120 per person in the US). According to a popular source, McDonald’s garners $ 9 billion profit from franchised stores.  
  • It is the richest fast-food network in the world. Now, it has 3600 restaurants operating across 120 countries worldwide. Surely, the statistics have a lot to say about McDonald’s as a brand whose popularity and success is taking an upward curve with each passing year. 

Foundation of McDonald’s 

  • Two brothers of the McDonald family, Maurice and Richard McDonald, started a restaurant in 1940 collaboratively at 1398 North E Street, San Bernardino, California. The restaurant was a drive-in named McDonald’s Famous Barbeque. Initially, their father Patrick McDonald had a food stand named Air Dome (1937) at Route 66, Monrovia Airport where hot dogs were served. The menu of the new restaurant included barbecued beef, ham, pork sandwiches and hamburgers. 
  • After eight years, the brothers decided to revamp their business and the Speedee Service System was introduced. It was inspired by Henry Ford’s assembly line of automobile production. The system was an efficient service format that enabled bulk orders to be carried out in less time and prices were kept low. Even architecture underwent a major change with the help of Stanley Clark Meston. 
  • The menu consisted of 15 cent hamburgers, cheeseburgers, potato chips, flavored soft drinks, milk, coffee, potato chips and pie. Even French fries and Coca-Cola was also introduced. They decided to sell hamburgers because during their car-hop drive-in services, they realized that hamburgers brought in more profits as compared to other food items. Moreover, these hamburgers were delivered at half the price of big restaurants. The initiative turned out to be a huge success which brought the need to establish franchises. 

The Ray Kroc Story 

As per the McDonald’s official website:

Ray Kroc envisioned a restaurant chain that would be known for consistently high-quality food and uniform methods of preparation. He wanted burgers, fries, and beverages that tasted the same in Alaska as they did in Alabama.

To accomplish this, he took a novel approach: he persuaded both franchisees and suppliers to buy into his vision, working not for McDonald’s but for themselves, in collaboration with McDonald’s. “In business for yourself, but not by yourself,” he advertised. His philosophy was based on the simple principle of a three-legged stool, with one leg representing McDonald’s franchisees, the second representing McDonald’s suppliers, and the third representing McDonald’s employees. The stool was only as strong as the three legs that supported it.

Ray Kroc never stopped working for McDonald’s until his death on January 14, 1984. His legacy lives on today, providing McDonald’s customers with great tasting, affordable food, opportunities for growth for crew and franchisees, and suppliers with a shared commitment to providing the highest quality ingredients and products.

From the other resources and the movie “The Founders” on the story of McDonald’s, this is what we can know about Ray Kroc.

  • Ray Kroc was the exclusive seller of Multimixer milkshake machines. He visited the Barbecue restaurant run by the McDonald brothers and were highly impressed by their carry-out operations.  
  • He offered to be the franchise agent that the brothers were looking for. After receiving due authorization, Kroc opened McDonald’s System, Inc., (1955) in Des Plaines, Illinois which is located east of the Mississippi river. 
  • The McDonald’s System Inc., is now McDonald Corporation. He proposed to open franchises across the country. Initially, the brothers were reluctant, but Kroc assumed the major responsibility to make the mission a success. 
  • In 1961 Kroc bought the McDonald’s company for $2.7 million which was a huge amount considering the times. He served as the CEO of McDonald’s from 1967 to 1973. 
  • They started their franchise operations in Phoenix, Arizona and Downey, California. In 1954, Ray Kroc was licensed by the McDonald brothers to open more restaurants across the country. 14 franchises of McDonald’s were sold, out of which nine restaurants became operating in the country. It was Ray Kroc’s guidance and marketing skills that granted him overnight success. 
  • Eventually, problems cropped up between Ray and the McDonald brothers where the latter seemed to fade out into the background. Even the original McDonald’s was demolished in the 1970s to make way for the San Bernardino Civic Light Opera.

Evolution of McDonald’s logo 

  • McDonald’s earliest logo was designed with its inception in 1940. The logo was titled “McDonald’s famous Barbecue” since the company exclusively served 40 barbecued food items. They sought to simplify the logo in the 1960s. Since they were no longer selling barbecued food, they decided to come up with a unique concept. 
  • Stanley Clark Meston was hired to design the architecture of the McDonald’s building. He ended up with the “Golden arches” which eventually became the brand’s logo. Speedee, a funny cook with a hamburger-shaped face, was also part of the logo to make customers aware of its quick and efficient service. This logo had an immense visual appeal for the customers. 
  • Successive changes in the McDonald’s logo kept taking place in the years 1960, 1968, 1975, 1992, 2000,2003 and 2006. The next logo idea was conceived by Jim Schindler, where an M with a slanting line passing across represented McDonalds. The name “McDonalds” was written below the M in the logo. 
  • The logo underwent changes over the past and can be credited with the brand’s success. It is one of the topmost recognizable logos in the world. 

Timeline of McDonald’s 

  • 1937- McDonald brother Dick and Mac starts selling hotdogs from a food stand, working together as business partners. 
  • 1940- The foundation of the Bar-B-Q restaurant by the McDonald brothers Richard and Maurice (Dick and Mac) were laid. 
  • 1948- The efficient SpeeDee service system was introduced in the McDonald brothers’ food business. 
  • 1953- The name McDonald Bar-B-Que was changed to McDonald’s. McDonald’s opened their first-ever franchise restaurant in Phoenix. 
  • 1954- Salesman Ray Kroc visits Dick and Mac and sought to make his mark by serving as a franchise agent to the McDonald brothers. His interest was piqued when he found out about McDonalds buying several milkshake machines for their small hamburger shop. 
  • 1955, April 15- The foundation of McDonald’s was laid by Ray Kroc in Des Plaines, Illinois. On the same day, McDonald’s became a corporation. 
  • 1959- Kroc appoints Harry J. Sonneborn as the first CEO of the McDonald’s company. 
  • 1961- Ray Kroc buys the equity rights from the McDonald brothers at a whopping price of $2.7 million. McDonald’s files for the trademark “McDonald’s” along with the description “drive-in restaurant services”. On September 13 the company files for a trademark of the logo M symbol. 
  • 1962/63-The “Golden arches” and Ronald McDonald replaced the SpeeDee logo. 
  • 1965- The clown Ronald Mcdonald was introduced to mainly target children’s entertainment. 
  • 1967- Ray Kroc replaces Harry J. Sonneborn as the new CEO of the Mcdonald’s company. 
  • 1968- present version of arches of MD 
  • 1968- The Big Mac which is a signature dish of McDonald’s was introduced as a part of the national menu by Jim Delligatti of Pittsburgh. 
  • 1971- The San Bernardino restaurant was torn down which got replaced by the Juan Pollo chain in the follow-up years. 
  • 1974- For the first time, Ronald McDonald House opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • 1983- Chicken McNuggets became part of the McDonald’s menu in all the domestic restaurants of U.S. 
  • 1984- Ray Kroc expires on 14 January after living for 82 years. 
  • 1998- The San Bernardino site was sold to Juan Pollo chain. 
  • 2003- McDonald’s launches the first global ad campaign “i’m lovin’ it” in Munich, Germany. 
  • 2015- McDonald’s launches the all-day breakfast menu which turned out to be a failure. 
  • 2017- McDelivery was launched globally in collaboration with UberEATS. 
  • 2018- In an effort to reduce plastic pollution, McDonald’s switched from plastic straws to paper straws in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Australia in 2018. The Netherlands followed the same in 2020 and Germany in 2021. 
  • 2021- McDonald’s Arcos Dorados, the world’s largest independent McDonald’s franchise with stores in Latin America and the Caribbean, introduced food trays manufactured by UBQ Materials in January 2021 that use a mix of food waste by-products to reduce the use of virgin plastic.

McDonald’s Oldest Restaurant Chain 

  • McDonald’s oldest chain is located in Lakewood Boulevard at Florence Avenue in Downey, California. It was opened on 18 August, 1953 and exists even today. The restaurant was the second franchised food outlet by the McDonald brothers Dick and Mac. This historic site continues to attract tourists from across the world every year. 
  • The Downey restaurant remained unaffected after Ray Kroc bought out the restaurant chain from brothers Mac and Dick. This was due to an agreement signed by the McDonald brothers. The menu of this restaurant differed from the menu of the other franchisees that included Big Mac, one of the signature dishes of McDonalds. 
  • This old restaurant continued to remain in its usual fashion despite the franchisees being modernized. Another McDonald’s operated by Ray Kroc was half a mile away. This new opening provided tough competition for the old restaurant and eventually overshadowed it completely. Sales went up in the new food outlet as people came in great numbers. The old McDonald’s was finally included as part of the McDonald’s Corporation in 1990. 
  • The restaurant even suffered damage by an earthquake in 1994. Moreover, due to its lack of an indoor seating and some other facilities, it was closed. The McDonald’s decided to demolish the old building and include some of its features in a modern restaurant nearby. Meanwhile, it was listed as one of the most endangered historical places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. People started raising concerns against its demolition. They wanted this place to be preserved as it has immense historical significance. This led McDonald’s to restore and reopen the old restaurant. 

The Final Thought!  

There is always a lot of hard work and risk involved in trying out new ventures in life. While the McDonald’s brothers laid the foundations, Ray Kroc was the person to be credited for establishing franchises all over the country. Their contributions made McDonald’s the world’s famous and most recognizable brand. From a simple restaurant, it now represents American culture and a way of life. Since it is a fast-food chain, it surely received many criticisms worldwide regarding ethics, consumer responsibility etc. McDonald’s tried to dish out solutions to the questions and complaints by offering various healthy alternatives to fast food. Over the years, we can expect this food empire to reach out to many more countries than it already does. 

Hopefully, this entire article has been able to elaborate on the main points of the history of McDonald’s. Most importantly, we hope it has been able to satisfy your inquisitive mind and offer a firm understanding about McDonald’s and the story behind. 

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