Top of page

McDonald’s Bar-B-Que?

Share this post:

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.

Photo taken from the book "McDonald's Behind the Arches"

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.

McDonald's restaurant in the Gentilly section of New Orleans

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).

Comments (9)

  1. McDonald owners earned multimillions
    But Americans’ health turned in mess.
    They need to have operation on every organ.
    To feel just healthy,
    Need taking many expensive remedies.

    To look like Hollywood actors’ of 1950s
    Is impossible … I guess.

    I say, “The money can’t buy health
    It can destroy your wealthy health.”

  2. Yet another fantastic post, constantly awesome to frequent your blog! Keep at it!

  3. i love McDonald’s

  4. Around 1975 while in the Air Force I was flying in a private plane over a suburb of Riverside and below saw an old car I was interested in in the backyard of a house. A few days later I drove into the vicinity of where the house was and after driving up and down several streets located the house. Knocking on the door the home and car owner let me into the back yard to see the rusty old car. After some negotiation he agreed to sell it to me. When I returned several days later with a flatbed with which to haul away the car, he asked me what I did and I replied I was in the Air Force. I asked him what he did and he replied he was in the restaurant business, “perhaps I had heard of his restaurant”, “I am Dick McDonald”. Being busy loading the car, (it had New Hampshire plates) I didn’t note the famous connection of the name, and shook my head no. (With this he made an odd face.) After getting back to the base the fellow that was helping me with the transportation of the car told me who “Dick” was…. I understand what Dick and his brother got out of selling their interest in the McDonalds’ chain was one million dollars each, with no residuals what so ever……I heard that by 1975 it was mostly gone…anyone know anything about more about that?

  5. I am thirteen years old and I’m in eighth grade. In our school once u reach eighth grade u do a project in history called your national history day project. Well of course my topic is McDonald’s and the Library of Congress is a good website to help me. When I started using the Library of Congress I was so confused until I got use to it and then the next thing I know I was on a role. The Library of Congress has helped me so much, that’s why I think everyone should use this website. Today my whole class has started to use this website, now thanks to Library of Congress everyone is finding what they need to find and doing great on there projects.

  6. can anyone tell me, whats happen to the McDonald brothers when ray takeover all things from them, tell me about McCafe story with the McDonald brothers, and any related ray Kroc to McCafe

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *