The 2010 calendar in my office is from The Economist. It is quite colorful and full of little tidbits of information and has, on more than one occasion, provided me with ideas for this blog.
The entry on the calendar for today is “1st McDonald’s Opens, San Bernardino, California, 1940.” Those of you who may be familiar with the Ray Kroc story – he opened his first McDonald’s in 1955 in Des Plaines, Illinois – may find this discrepancy confusing. The story prior to Ray is one I found rather interesting.
The brothers Richard (Dick) and Maurice (Mac) McDonald moved from New Hampshire to California, attracted by the motion picture industry where they worked as stage hands. Wanting to start their own business they first opened a movie theater. When they were not able to make a profit they moved on to their next venture – a drive-in restaurant near Pasadena. The primary menu offering was hotdogs.
On May 15, 1940 McDonald’s Bar-B-Que restaurant was opened in San Bernardino. The restaurant had carhops serving guests and would often see 125 cars crowding the lot on weekends. They quickly saw their annual sales topping $200,000 on a regular basis.
With competition on the rise the brothers closed their drive-in for three months in 1948. Revamping the establishment they eliminated the carhops and tables and added self service windows. They were focusing on quicker service to the customer and their “Speedee Service System” changed the fast food industry. Scaling back their menu and the new streamlined preparation allowed them to drop their prices. McDonald’s opened back up with the menu consisting of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french fries, shakes, soft drinks, and apple pies. This was the beginning of the fifteen cent hamburger!
The brothers began licensing their Speedee Service System on their own and had their first licensee in 1952. The new restaurant in Phoenix was to be a prototype for the new chain of drive-in restaurants. The initial architect balked at adding the arches to the new building. Once the structure was complete McDonald contacted a sign maker and the “golden arches” were born!
In 1954 Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman, made a visit to his best customers to see why anyone would need so many milkshake machines. After watching the brothers operation and many discussions a partnership was born. In 1961 Ray Kroc bought out the McDonald brother’s interest in the franchise… and the rest is history.
Further reading and my references for this post:
Fucini, Joseph J. & Suzy (1985). Entrepreneurs, the men and women behind famous brand names and how they made it. Boston: G.K. Hall. (Page 217).
Love, John F. (1986). McDonald’s : behind the arches. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books. Chapter 1, pp 9-29.
McDonald’s Corporation: Our Story
Young, William H. & Nancy K. (2007). The Great Depression in America : a cultural encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. (Page 425).