From Burgers to Billions

MacDonaIds and the Golden Arches...doesn't it seem like they have always been around?

Well not quite. It started in 1940, when the McDonald brothers moved their hot dog stand called “Airdrome” from Monrovia to San Bernardino, California and renamed it to McDonalds Restaurant. At that time, the restaurant’s menu contained more than just burgers. It was then a popular hangout too, especially for teenagers.

But, the real concept of what McDonalds was to become was actually born in 1948 when the brothers noticed that most profits came from their burgers. They closed for awhile in order to implement what they called the “Speedee Service System”, which is the basic concept on which McDonalds operates until today. The system was an efficient assembly line to produce burgers, french fries and milkshakes in the fastest time possible, and the food was sold at low prices. McDonalds tasted its first success, and it became even more famous.

McDonalds Meets Ray Kroc

In 1954, Ray Kroc, entrepreneur, visited McDonalds to find out why they needed 8 of his five-spindled milkshake mixers all at once. When he got there, he saw great potential, and guaranteed profit and success in the “fast food” technique that McDonalds used. He persuaded the McDonald brothers to let him franchise outside California and Arizona, and the future of the popular fast food chain was set. It would grow and spread under the management of Ray Kroc.

Ray Kroc was the ultimate salesman and a natural marketer. He seemed to instinctively grasp the concept of the definition of viral marketing and a viral marketing campaign even before they were discovered. He just carried forward as if he had a destiny to fulfill. And so he did.

By the next year, Ray opened his first McDonalds restaurant on March 2, 1955.

Decades of Change and Development for McDonalds

The following years consisted of a series of changes for the would-be fast food giant.

  • Ray sold 18 franchises in his first year, but he discovered that the profits he earned weren’t enough to maintain expenses. So he hired Harry Sonnenborn as Chief Financial Officer, who suggested that they buy and sell the land upon which McDonalds franchises would be built.

  • In 1961, the McDonald brothers sold all the business rights to Ray Kroc for $2.7 million. Ray also built the Hamburger University to teach franchisees how McDonalds was operated.

  • By 1963, in an attempt to focus marketing strategies to families and children, Ronald McDonald, who is to be McDonalds’ main mascot until present, was introduced. In the same year, records showed that the restaurant sold its one billionth burger.

  • McDonalds goes out of the country in 1967, and builds its first international branch in Richmond, British Columbia. In the following years, the company opened more and more restaurants to many other countries in the world, including European and Asian countries.

  • By the next year, 1968, the Big Mac and the Hot Apple Pie was added to the menu. Through its years in operation, McDonalds has added many more food items, such as the Quarter Pounder, and the Egg McMuffin. Today, lovers of the McDonald restaurant now enjoy a variety of food choices on their menu.

  • For children, McDonalds opened its first “McDonalds Playland” in Chula Vista, California in 1971. The Happy Meal was introduced in the United States in 1979.

  • In 1977, McDonalds added a breakfast line to their menu.

The Millenium Year for McDonalds

Over the years, this fast food phenomenon has penetrated countries all over the world. Time hasn’t always smiled over McDonalds though, and there have been many challenges and controversial ordeals. Ray Kroc had passed away in 1984, but the restaurant still survives. The millennium years may just be a huge challenge for McDonalds too, especially with issues regarding health, nutrition and child obesity. However, the restaurant has learned to go with the times, and have improved and developed ways to serve their customers better.

A few of these are the addition of healthier food choices on their menu, like salads and chicken meals, and removing their “Supersize” options to adapt to the “healthier” lifestyle that people are more attracted to recently. They’ve also placed Wi-Fi services, invented the “McDrive” (drive-thru services), and have experimented with call centers for taking drive-thru orders in order to take advantage of the latest technology.

More detailed information about the history of McDonalds can be found on the McDonalds website.


Find out about the enterprising man who put MacDonalds on the map by learning to franchise-Ray Kroc.

Get inspired. Visit the Success Stories of Entrepreneurs page.

Learn what it takes to succeed. Find out the winning Characteristics of an Entrepreneur.

Discover what successful entrepreneurs already know. Great Customer Service Tips matter.

Are you are Entrepreneur interested in Starting a Restaurant? Read This.

Learn from the Success of others. Check out the Starbucks History page.

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