With a market capitalization of more than $94 billion, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) , is the largest restaurant company in the world. But, size isn't everything! In addition to be large and seemingly omnipresent, the company has a rich history that is filled with foibles and triumphs. In honor of this rich history, I decided to write this article detailing some facts your probably didn't know about the world's (and possibly your) favorite restaurant.
1. Ronald McDonald Wasn't McDonald's First Mascot
Contrary to what some may think, there was a mascot for McDonald's before Ronald McDonald was introduced to the world in 1963. Though short-lived for a period in 1959, McDonald's had a caricature of a chef for its mascot that it called Speedee. However, after finding out that Alka-Seltzer had a mascot named Speedy, the company decided to drop the little chef.
Fortunately, for McDonald's enthusiasts though, there is still one Speedee sign in operation, as you can see in the picture below:
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Despite the company's decision to drop Speedee, the McDonald's in Downey, California still adorns the adorable chef. As a fun side note, the McDonald's pictured above, which was put into operation in 1953, is actually of the third McDonald's restaurant ever set up and, consequently, the oldest still in operation.
2. A Mixer Salesman Transformed McDonald's into what it is Today
Though it may be tempting to chalk up McDonald's success to the McDonald brothers who started the business, much of the company's early success can be attributed to a former salesman from the now defunct Prince Castle Multi-Mixer company named Ray Kroc. After finding out that McDonald's ordered 8 of his company's mixers, he ventured to their headquarters and, eventually, purchased the company from its founders for $2.7 million in 1961. Even prior to his acquisition of the company, he aided the McDonald brothers considerably in expanding their empire, tripling the company's size from 34 locations in 1958 to 102 locations in 1959.
Under the leadership of Kroc, the company expanded across the country and set the stage for becoming the global brand that it ultimately amounted to. However, one of his failed attempts at expanding the company involved his proposal to build a restaurant at Disneyland, an entertainment park owned by The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS ) . According to his recount of the deal, he contacted Walt Disney, whom he had the opportunity to meet while they were both ambulance driver trainees in Connecticut, with his proposition. Though no concrete evidence remains of their correspondence, he later claimed that Disney was open to the suggestion, but requested that they raise the price of their fries from $0.10 to $0.15 so that Disney could keep the extra cash raked in. Feeling that this would be a disservice to the customer, Kroc backed out of the deal.
3. Big Mac Wonders
Today, the Big Mac is synonymous with McDonald's. For years, it has been their most famous burger and has helped the company's growth considerably. But, this wasn't always the case. The Big Mac wasn't actually developed until 1967, where it was made and sold by Jim Delligatti, a long-standing franchisee of the restaurant chain. Available initially in the Pittsburgh area, the burger wasn't sold nationally until 1968.
Interestingly, the Big Mac was initially named something else. At first, Delligatti called it the Aristocrat but local residents were unable to pronounce its name and were confused by its meaning. Then, he tried the name Blue Ribbon Burger, but the craze failed to catch on. It wasn't until the company's 21-year old advertising secretary, Esther Glickstein Rose, coined the name Big Mac that the burger exploded in popularity. Today, some locations (many international ones and some individual U.S. restaurants) offer what is commonly referred to as the Mega Mac or Double Big Mac, a version of the burger that has four patties on it instead of two.
In 2007, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Big Mac, the company debuted the Big Mac Museum. Located in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the museum shows off the largest Big Mac statue in existence, as well as hundreds of historical artifacts related to the Big Mac.
4. McDonald's Alleged Ties to Terrorism
Expanding internationally is never an easy task due to legal, economic and cultural differences. McDonald's discovered this the hard way when, in 1974, it was confronted with controversy surrounding its alleged association with the Irish Republican Army, a known terrorist organization whose acronym was I.R.A. The way this controversy began can be traced back to one thing; corporate laziness.
When the company opened its first location in the United Kingdom, it used the same employment forms that it had in the United States. On these forms, it asked employees if they wanted to contribute money to an I.R.A. (which is the U.S. acronym for an Individual Retirement Account). As such, members of the public believed that the company was openly associated with the terrorist organization, even after the company cleared up the misunderstanding.
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