With well over a billion served, McDonald’s remains the single most successful fast food franchises in existence. The Golden Arches remains the most recognizable corporate brand in history and the legendary characters of McDondald’s Land along with scores of brilliantly creative commercials have allowed McDonald’s to become a pop culture phenomenon.
Yet, despite the amazing prevalence of this company on the global landscape, few are familiar with the history of this company and how it was created. No, the Golden Arches did not just show up on the world landscape one day. Rather, it was a somewhat slow process that does reflect the fact that a smart and motivated entrepreneur can create a business that is more successful than anyone ever imagined.
In 1940, Maurice and Richard McDonald took over operations of their father’s hamburger restaurant and moved it from the Monrovia Airport in California to nearby San Bernardino, CA. They changed the airport friendly name of The Airdrome to McDonald’s and set it up as a roadside hamburger drive-thru. In time, the two brothers switched to a diner type sit down environment which revolved around serving hamburgers that were cooked in an assembly line fashion. Critics repeatedly told them they were wasting their time because the big money was in drive-thrus. Hamburgers wouldn’t work as a sit-down item. The McDonald Brothers proved everyone wrong and the little restaurant did quite well.
The very innocuous beginnings never entailed any intentions by the brothers McDonald to turn the little restaurant into a major franchise. However, things changed when a man named Ray Kroc entered the picture in 1954. Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman who ended up buying into the restaurant. It was Kroc that had the amazing visions of growth. Kroc took over all operations of franchising the McDonald’s stores and opened the first one in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955. Over time, the new corporation called “McDonald’s Systems” grew and grew. It eventually went public and saw enormous growth in the 1960’s with the very simple – and extremely effective – advertising campaign “Look for the Golden Arches.”
McDonald’s was already a hugely successful corporation by the early 1970’s when a new advertising plan was established. This strategy was somewhat outrageous for its time due to being so over the top. This campaign, of course, was that of McDonald’s Land and all the amazing characters in it. The main character was Ronald McDonald, a happy go lucky and friendly clown that put on a proverbial happy and joyful face for the company. Ronald McDonald was such a huge hit with kids, an entire new customer base was attracted leading to one of the biggest business booms the company ever experienced.
The success of McDonald’s is quite simple to break down: convenient food was made easily available to the entire family at a fair and affordable price. Many have tried to duplicate the success of McDonald’s and have ended up launching their own multibillion dollar empires. However, they never could knock McDonald’s off its top spot as the greatest franchise in the world.
Richard McDonald first opens McDonald’s Bar-B-Que in San Bernadino. The restaurant was located at the intersection of 14th & East streets, where it still resides today.
They decide to renovate and re-do the restaurant and its menu that contained only nine items. The staple of the menu is the 15 cent hamburger. For 5 cents, you could get bottomless orange juice to go with it.
McDonald’s introduces it’s famous french fries and they became an instant hit
Ray Kroc visits McDonalds, and partners with Richard and Maurice (also known as Dick and Mac). He also becomes the official franchising agent. He introduces the triple milkshake to the menu as well.
McDonald’s opens it’s second location in Des Plaines, Illinois. Ray Kroc was instrumental in getting it established. The restaurant’s second location made $366.12 in sales on opening day. More than 700 additional franchise locations would open over the course of the decade that followed.
In 1963, 23 years after opening their very first restaurant, the two brothers opened McDonald’s 500th location in Toledo, Ohio.
In 1965, McDonald’s officially became a publicly owned corporation, selling it’s first public stock shares at $22.50 a piece. The initial stock offering took place on the restaurant’s 10th anniversary.
Ronald McDonald made his debut in 1963 and McDonald’s net income exceeded $1 million.
With the opening of McDonald’s first locations in Canada and Puerto Rico, McDonalds became an international chain. This trend would continue eventually establishing McDonald’s locations in 118 different countries.
The famous Big Mac hamburger is introduced.
McDonald’s decides to expand from lunch into breakfast, and begins the morning meal with the launch of it’s reknowned Egg McMuffin sandwiches. The Egg McMuffin was invented by a McDonald’s location owner by the name of Herb Peterson, from Santa Barbara, California.
McDonald’s celebrates it’s 25th anniversary.
In an effort to please it’s more health-conscious customers, McDonald’s debuts it’s new fresh salads on May 15th, 1987.
McDonald’s launches it’s website, McDonalds.com.
In 2005, McDonald’s celebrated 50 years of operation from the date it’s first location was opened.
McDonald’s introduced it’s snack wraps, adding a non-sandwich lunch item to it’s menu.
In an effort to compete with cafes and smoothie shops, McDonald’s launches it’s McCafe line of lattes and cappuccinos, along with it’s Real Fruit Smoothies and Frappes.
Shamrock Shake was offered Nationally. Since first launching in the U.S. in 1970, the Shamrock Shake has built an almost cult-like following. Fans eagerly await its annual return to the menu for those magical few weeks leading up to the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.
McDonalds starts to serve breakfast all day. Breakfast was their number one selling meal and previously you could only get their breakfast before 10:30am. You can now enjoy savory breakfast sandwiches like an Egg McMuffin, Sausage Biscuit or even pancakes. Only part of the breakfast menu is available all day however.