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 brothers.


1955  On April 15, Ray Kroc opens his first McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois.  Total sales for the company are $193,772.

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 advertising.

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 advertising fund.

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 exchanges.

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 a facility.

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 Officer.


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 young.

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 Hamburger University.

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 employs 1,000.

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 Helsinki.

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 of schedule.

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 1968.

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 Market.

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 earnings forecast.

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.