The Early Years
1948 In December, Dick
and Mac McDonald open the first McDonald’s drive-thru hamburger stand in
San Bernardino, California. A little hamburger man called "Speedee"
becomes the company mascot.
1954 Ray A. Kroc, a Multimixer milkshake machine
salesman from Oak Park, Illinois, visits Dick and Mac’s San Bernardino
McDonald’s, his curiosity initially aroused by the large number of Multimixers
they were buying. Ray Kroc becomes franchising agent for the McDonald’s
1955 On April 15, Ray Kroc opens his first
McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois. Total sales for the company
1956 McDonald’s Corporation adds 12 restaurants to
the chain. McDonald’s rapid expansion was facilitated in large part
by low franchising fees. In 1956 Kroc also establishes the Franchise
Realty Corporation, in order to buy tracts of land to rent to franchisers.
Ray Kroc hires Fred Turner as a grillman in his #1 store in Des Plaines.
1957 McDonald’s becomes known for the motto
"QSC" for Quality, Service, and Cleanliness. Kroc devised a sophisticated
operating and delivery system to insure the consistency of food quality
in every restaurant. Noting his deficiency in the field of advertising,
Ray Kroc hires a public relations firm for the first time.
1958 McDonald’s sells its 100 millionth hamburger.
Fred Turner becomes Vice President of the company. McDonald’s annual sales
skyrocket an amazing 151% over the previous year to $10,896,163.
1959 The one hundredth restaurant opens in Fond Du
Lac, Wisconsin. McDonald’s begins billboard advertising.
1960 "Look for the Golden Arches," is McDonald’s
first jingle. It must be working, since the annual sales have risen
to a total $37,579,828. In this year, the average beef consumption
for an American is 64.3 pounds per year.
1961 Ray Kroc buys out the McDonald brothers
for $2.7 million. Hamburger University opens in the basement of the
Elk Grove Village, Illinois, McDonald’s and confers Bachelor of Hamburgerology
degrees to the first graduating class. “Hamburger U”, as it came
to be known, was seen as Ray Kroc’s effort to change the perception of
the production of hamburgers to one of a respectable profession, rather
than a lowly pursuit. The University was also a mechanism for maintaing
a corporate culture dedicated to business success. The Golden Arches
- a modernistic M - replaces "Speedee" as the company’s logo.
1962 "Go for Goodness at McDonald’s", a new
advertising slogan, is introduced. The first McDonald's restaurant that’s
built to accommodate indoor seating opens in Denver, Colorado.
1963 Hamburger University graduates its 500th
student. The one billionth McDonald’s hamburger is served by Ray
Kroc on the Art Linkletter Show. Franchisees in Washington D.C. create
the Ronald McDonald character, immediately employing him in television
1964 At year end there are 657 restaurants.
The company’s gross sales hit $130 million.
1965 McDonald’s celebrates its 10th anniversary
with the first public stock offering at $22.50 per share. Ronald
McDonald makes his first appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Television network advertising begins. For the first time, Mcdonald's
begins to hire female staff members. Previously, in order to maintain
a family style restaurant free from loitering teenage boys, females were
systematically excluded from the McDonald’s staff.
1966 In May, McDonald’s holds its first annual
public shareholder’s meeting. On July 5, McDonald’s is listed on
the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker symbol MCD. Beginning
in this year, franchisees are required to contribute to a national television
1967 McDonald’s organizes its first All-American
High School Band. The first international McDonald’s restaurants
open in Canada and Puerto Rico. This year marks also the beginning
of a period during which the company buys out many of its franchisees,
in order to solidify its capital base. In 1967 McDonald’s owns only
15% of its restaurants. Testing of the Big Mac also begins in January
of this year.
1968 The Big Mac and
Hot Apple Pie are added to the original menu. The only other addition
up to this point had been the Filet-O-Fish.
1969 The "billions served" sign changes to
"five billion." McDonald’s is listed on the Midwest and Pacific stock
1970 McDonald’s introduces Christmas gift certificates
for the first time. The 1,500th restaurant opens in Concord, New
Hampshire. A McDonald’s in Bloomington, Minnesota is the first to reach
$1 million in annual sales. In a patriotic push, half a million dollars
is appropriated to illuminate American flags at McDonald’s restaurants.
1971 The Hamburglar, Grimace, Mayor McCheese,
Captain Crook, and the Professor join Ronald McDonald in McDonaldland.
The Home Office is moved from Chicago to Oak Brook, Illinois. McDonald’s
open in Japan, Germany, Australia, Guam, Holland and Panama. The
first McDonald’s Playland opens in Chula Vista, California.
1972 McDonald’s becomes a billion dollar corporation
on December 17th. The 2,000th store opens in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Large fries are a menu option for the first time.
1973 McDonald’s makes the cover of Time
magazine. The Quarter Pounder is added to the national menu.
The first McDonald’s in a college facility opens at the University of Cincinnati.
1974 McDonald’s opens its first restaurant
in a zoo in Toronto, Canada. Fred Turner becomes President and Chief
Executive Officer. The first Ronald McDonald House opens in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. Ronald Mcdonald houses provide lodging for families
of terminally ill children forced to relocate for treatment. The
company sells its 15 billionth hamburger. By year end, total sales
for the company approach $2 billion. McDonald’s Cookies are also
introduced this year. "Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameeseedbun"
promotion is introduced. This slogan would eventually prove to be
the most famous advertising jingle ever for the Big Mac.
1975 The Egg McMuffin is added to the national
menu. The 10,000th student graduates from Hamburger University.
1976 McDonald’s sales surpass $3 billion.
President and Chief Executive Fred Turner is named Chairman of the Board
of Directors, succeeding Ray Kroc, who is named Senior Chairman. Chairman
Ed Schmitt is named President and Chief Administrative Officer. 1976
also marks the end of the emphasis on buying out franchisees which began
in 1967. At this point McDonald’s now owns 30% of its restaurants.
In this year, beef consumption annually for the average American has risen
from 64.3 pounds per year, in 1960, to 93.5 pounds per year, annually.
1977 A complete breakfast line is added to
the national menu. The first McDonald’s All American High School Basketball
Team is organized. McDonald’s announces plans to secure the
land (80 acres) for its home office in Oak Brook, Illinois.
1978 The 25 billionth hamburger is served.
1979 McDonald’s introduces its new advertising
theme "Nobody Can Do It Like McDonald’s Can." Happy Meals are added
to the national menu. Four years after the domestic drive-thru concept
was introduced, nearly half (2,884) of McDonald’s restaurants have such
1980 McDonald’s celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary.
Birdie, the Early Bird, joins the McDonald’s characters. The first floating
McDonald’s is launched on the historic Mississippi riverfront in St. Louis,
just south of the famous Gateway Arch. Mike Quinlan is elected to
the newly created position of President, McDonald’s USA and Chief Operating
1981 McDonald’s renews its most successful
campaign ever – "You Deserve a Break Today." There are 5,554 stores
in the United States and 1,185 internationally, totalling 6,739 stores
worldwide with sales of $6 billion. The first Ronald McDonald House
outside the U.S. opens in Toronto, Canada. By the end of 1981, Ronald McDonald
Houses provided shelter annually for an estimated 33,000 families.
1982 The American Marketing Association Achievement
Award, the marketing profession’s highest honor, was presented to McDonald’s
Corporation for excellence in marketing programs. During this same
year, Burger King launched its “Battle of the Burgers” advertising campaign,
specifically targeting McDonald’s among other restaurants. McDonald’s
followed up with a lawsuit, which was settled out of court.
1983 McDonald’s restaurants are now located
in 32 countries around the world. The new Hamburger University opens
in Oak Brook, Illinois. Chicken McNuggets are introduced into all
domestic restaurants by the year’s end.
1984 Ray Kroc, Founder and Senior Chairman
of the Board of McDonald’s, dies on January 14. McDonald’s restaurants
open in four new countries: Andorra, Finland, Taiwan, and Wales. Chicken
McNuggets are introduced in Canada, Japan, France, and Germany, making
McDonald’s the second largest purveyor of chicken in the world. McDonald’s
serves its 50 billionth hamburger. Dick McDonald, who along with his brother
Mac, started the McDonald’s system 41 years earlier, ate the ceremonial
burger. McDonald’s year-end systemwide sales surpass $10 billion.
In memory of Ray Kroc, Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities is established.
The establishment of this foundation was depicted by the company as a way
to reflect Kroc's special love for children. However, it was arguably
a tactical move to project an image contrary to the emerging critical one
of Mcdonald's as a purveyor of junk food pandering especially to the very
1985 The first European Ronald McDonald House
opens in Amsterdam, Holland. By December there are more than 90 Ronald
McDonald Houses open worldwide. Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s restaurant
is restored to its original form and reopens in May as the McDonald’s #1
Store Museum in Des Plaines, Illinois. McBlimp, the world’s largest
airship, appears in the skies over New York City, introducing McDonald’s
newest form of advertising.
1986 McDonald’s serves one out of every four
breakfasts eaten outside of the home in the United States. In March
McDonald’s adds fresh baked buttermilk biscuit sandwiches to the breakfast
menu. McDonald’s employees bake more than 1.5 million buttermilk biscuits
daily. McDonald’s breaks the "sound barrier" by producing "Silent Persuasion",
the first-ever television commercial featuring sign language and closed
captioning for the hearing- impaired audience. McDonald’s restaurants worldwide
change their road signs to read "More Than 60 Billion Served." On December
1, McDonald’s opens the first fast food restaurant in North Pole, Alaska.
The restaurant is located on Santa Clause Lane.
1987 Freshly tossed salads are added to the
McDonald’s national menu on May 15th. McDonald’s grants Sears Roebuck
& Co. the rights to carry a children’s line of clothing called "McKids."
The 30,000th student is granted a Hamburgerology Degree from McDonald’s
1988 Fortune magazine names McDonald’s hamburgers
among the 100 products America makes best. George Cohon, President
and CEO McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited, signs an agreement with
the Soviet Union to open a McDonald’s in Moscow, with a possible 19 more
restaurants to follow. McDonald’s opens its 10,000th restaurant in
Dale City, Virginia, on April 6. Year-end systemwide sales top $16
billion. In this year as well, sales at drive-thru windows reach
51% of total store sales for locations with this feature.
1989 In May all U.S. restaurants begin serving
the country-style McChicken sandwich. The Big Mac celebrates its
21st birthday. Ray Kroc is elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame
in recognition of his special contributions to the advertising industry
and the community at large. McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited brings
its restaurant expertise to the Toronto Sky Dome. This first-of-a-kind
stadium location has four restaurants, 20 Skysnack locations, 48 beverage
stations, and a team of stadium vendors.
1990 On January 31, the first McDonald’s restaurant
in Moscow opens. On April 1, no-fat, no-cholesterol apple bran muffins
and whole-grain cereal are added as permanent breakfast items in all of
McDonald’s U.S. restaurants. On April 17, McDonald’s announces "McRecycle
USA", an environmental program that sets a goal of at least $100 million
annually to purchase recycled materials. In May McDonald’s introduces
a new national advertising theme, "Food, Folks, and Fun." The first
McDonald’s restaurant constructed primarily out of recycled materials opens
in Albany, New York. In July, in further response to nutritional
criticism, all McDonald’s U.S. restaurants post complete McDonald’s food
product nutrition and ingredient information. On July 18, McDonald’s
announces a decision to cook french fries in 100% cholesterol-free vegetable
oil. Life magazine names McDonald’s Corporation Founder Ray Kroc
as one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century."
The first McDonald’s restaurant opens in Shenzhen, a special economic zone
of the People’s Republic of China. On November 19, McDonald’s enters
its 54th country with the opening of a restaurant in Chile.
1991 McDonald’s introduces the McLean Deluxe
sandwich which features a 91% fat-free beef patty. Hamburger University
celebrates its 30th anniversary. McDonald’s and Ronald McDonald Children’s
Charities donate $1.1 million to help families of military personnel stationed
in the Persian Gulf. McDonald’s nationally phases in recycled carry-out
bags and recycled fiber napkins.
1992 McDonald’s food is now being served in
two restaurant cars on the Swiss Federal Railroad. This marks McDonald’s
first train operation. New advertising theme, "What You Want is What
You Get" debuts. The world’s largest McDonald’s opens in Beijing,
China. This two-story 28,000 square foot facility seats more than 700 and
1993 McDonald’s opens its doors inside a Wal*Mart
store. The restaurant is approximately 1,250 square feet, and includes
a limited menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Quarter Pounders, french fries,
Coca-Cola and diet Coke, and sausage biscuits. The first McDonald’s
at sea opens March 14 aboard the Silja Europe, the world’s largest ferry,
which transports vacationers across the Baltic Sea between Stockholm and
1994 Annual sales reach $25.9 billion.
McDonald’s is inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame by the American
Marketing Association (AMA). For the first time, five Middle Eastern
countries enjoy the Golden Arches with restaurant openings in Egypt, Oman,
Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. McDonald’s opens in
Bulgaria, Trinidad, New Caledonia, and Latvia, bringing the total number
of countries McDonald’s does business in to 79.
1995 The Fajita Chicken Salad is introduced nationally.
The new advertising theme "Have You Had Your Break Today?" debuts.
The world’s first kosher McDonald’s opens in Israel. McDonald’s reaches
its target of purchasing $1 billion of recycled materials five years ahead
1996 McDonald’s acquires 184 Roy Rogers restaurants
in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas. The first McSKI-THRU
opens in Lindvallen, Sweden on December 7. McDonald’s opens in Croatia,
Western Samoa, Fiji, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, India, Peru, Jordan, Paraguay,
Dominican Republic, Belarus and Tahiti, bringing the total number of countries
to 101. McDonald’s signs a 10-year contract with The Walt Disney
Company. McDonald’s will become Disney’s primary promotional partner in
the restaurant industry, sharing exclusive marketing rights in more than
100 countries and linking McDonald’s restaurants to Disney theatrical releases,
theme parks and home video releases.
1997 Did Somebody Say McDonald’s?" is introduced
as the new advertising theme. McDonald’s All American Basketball
Game, played in Colorado Springs, celebrates its 20th anniversary.
1998 Jack M. Greenberg is named president and
chief executive officer of McDonald's Corporation. Global sales reached
$36 billion, a 10-year compound annual growth rate of 8 percent.
McDonald's celebrates the 30th anniversary of its flagship sandwich, the
Big Mac. The Big Mac was invented by franchisee Jim Delligatti in Pittsburg
1999 McDonald's opens its 25,000th restaurant
in Chicago's historic Bronzeville neighborhood -- a milestone unsurpassed
by any globally branded retailer.
2000 Systemwide sales exceed $40 billion.
McDonald's customer visits exceed 16.5 billion. McDonald's acquires Boston
2001 There are now over 28,000 McDonald's restaurants
worldwide. However, the stock price drops to the lowest in three
years, and Mad Cow Disease emerges as a serious concern for company heads.
2002 In Hawaii, which has the largest per-capita
spam consumption of any state, a new breakfast sandwich is test-marketed
consisting of spam, rice, and egg. In November it is announced that
McDonald's will close 175 locations, causing it to fail to meet its fourth-quarter
2003 A protest group led by former presidential
candidate Ralph Nader calls for McDonald's to be removed as a sponsor of
PBS's "Sesame Street", citing obesity concerns. Responding to health
concerns, McDonald's demands that all its meat suppliers phase out antibiotic
growth promoters in the production of their beef.
2004 On April 1, the US House of Representatives
approves a bill prohibiting lawsuits against food service retailers for
making people overweight. Jim Cantalupo, Chairman/CEO dies of a heart
attack on April 19. Charlie Bell is named the new president/CEO.
It is announced that the "supersize" fries will be taken off the menu.
The company signs an agreement with the Discovery Channel to have the home
decoration show "Trading Spaces" redecorate a Ronald Mcdonald House.