McDonald’s restaurants - History of Business in the U.S.Identification: Fast-food corporation
Date: Founded on April 15, 1955
Significance: By the mid-1950’s, automobiles and drive-in restaurants were part of the American lifestyle. McDonald’s successfully met the need for fast service, low-cost meals, convenience, and a child-friendly atmosphere. It became the world’s largest fast-food restaurant chain and a symbol of American culture. The term “McDonalization” was coined to describe the homogenization accompanying the globalization of American culture.
The original business concept behind McDonald’s restaurants emerged in 1948 with the first such restaurant, in San Bernardino, California. At this hamburger, french fries, and milkshake stand, brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald implemented their revolutionary “Speedee Service System,” the basic format of the modern fast-food restaurant. This self-service, assembly-line system eliminated the need for waiters, carhops, dishwashers, and bus boys. Paper plates and plastic utensils replaced dishware, glassware, and silverware.
In 1954, Ray Kroc, the exclusive distributor of the Multimixer milkshake mixer, was intrigued that the McDonald’s restaurant was running eight Multimixers at once. After observing the restaurant’s busy daily operations, he was impressed with how efficiently and cheaply it was able to produce and sell large quantities of food.
Kroc proposed a franchise program. On April 15, 1955, he opened the first franchised McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois; he incorporated later that year. Kroc sold franchises, requiring owners to become restaurant managers and to follow the McDonald’s automation and standardization models. In 1961, Kroc purchased the Mc- Donald brothers’ equity in the business for $2.7 million. By then, sales had reached $37 million and there were 228 restaurants. Over one billion hamburgers had been sold by the end of 1963. McDonald’s issued stock, becoming a publicly traded company in 1965. When Kroc died in 1984, there were more than 7,500 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide.
McDonald’s created famous symbols and products to define its brand. The rooftop “golden arches” were replaced by the trademark doublearch “M” logo in 1962. In 1963, the iconic Ronald McDonald clown appeared, and in 1974, the first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia to house families of critically ill children away from home.
The first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, pictured in 1982. (AP/Wide World Photos)
McDonald’s introduced the Big Mac sandwich in 1968, the Egg McMuffin in 1973, Happy Meals for children in 1979, Chicken McNuggets in 1983, salads in 1985, and a premium salad line in 2004. In 2006, McDonald’s premium coffee made its debut to compete with Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. In response to health concerns, McDonald’s began including nutritional information on packaging.
By early 2008, the McDonald’s Corporation had 30,000 local restaurants in more than one hundred countries.With 75 percent of the restaurants owned and operated by franchisees and affiliates, McDonald’s was serving more than 54 million customers daily.
Kroc, Ray, and Robert Anderson. Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1987.
Love, John F. McDonald’s: Behind the Arches. Rev. ed. New York: Bantam Books, 1995.
Spurlock, Morgan. Don’t Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005.
See also: Beef industry; Drive-through businesses; fast-food restaurants; Food-processing industries; Restaurant industry; Retail trade industry.