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McDonald's Corporation

McDonald's logo
McDonald's logo

McDonald's Corporation is the world's largest chain of fast-food restaurants. Although McDonald's did not invent the hamburger or fast food, its name has become nearly synonymous with both.


Corporate overview

McDonald's trademark Golden Arches, Maple leaf indicates a Canadian Mcdonald's
McDonald's trademark Golden Arches, Maple leaf indicates a Canadian Mcdonald's

McDonald's Corporation operates more than 31,000 quick-service restaurant businesses under the McDonald's brand, in 121 countries around the world. In addition, the company operates other restaurant brands, such as Aroma Cafť , Boston Market, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Donatos Pizza and Pret A Manger . Revenues for 2001 were US$14.87 billion, with net income at $1.64 billion.

Most McDonald's offer both counter and drive-through service, with indoor and sometimes outdoor seating. Drive-throughs often have separate stations for placing, paying for, and picking up orders, though often the latter two steps are combined. In some countries "McDrive" locations, near highways, offer no counter service or seating. Locations in high-density neighborhoods, as in many downtowns, often omit drive-through service.

Specially themed restaurants also exist, such as Rock-and-Roll McDonald's, 50's themed restaurants. Many newer McDonald's in suburban areas feature large indoor or outdoor playgrounds, called McDonald's Playlands or PlayPlaces.

The McDonald's Corporation's business model is slightly different from that of most other fast-food chains. In addition to ordinary franchise fees, supplies and percentage of sales, McDonald's also collects rent, partially linked to sales. As a condition of the franchise agreement, McDonald's owns the property on which most McDonald's franchises are located. According to Harry J. Sonneborne , one of McDonald's founders:

"We are in the real estate business. The only reason we sell hamburgers is because they are the greatest producer of revenue from which our tenants can pay us rent."

McDonald's trains its franchisees and others at Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois.


50s-themed McDonald's sign in Bangor, Maine
50s-themed McDonald's sign in Bangor, Maine
  • 1940: The first McDonald's restaurant was founded on May 15 by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in San Bernardino, California.
  • 1948: The McDonald's restaurant gained fame when the brothers implemented their innovative "Speedee Service System", an assembly line for hamburgers.
  • 1954: entrepreneur and milkshake-mixer salesman Ray Kroc became interested in the McDonald's restaurant when he learned of its extraordinary capacity. After seeing the restaurant in operation, he approached the McDonald brothers with a proposition to open new McDonald's restaurants, with himself as the first franchisee. Kroc worked hard to sell McDonald's. He even attempted to prevail on his wartime acquaintance with Walt Disney, in the failed hope of opening a McDonald's at the soon-to-be-opened Disneyland. Eventually he opened his first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois. It was an immediate success.
  • 1955: Kroc's founds "McDonald's Systems Inc.", on March 2.
  • 1960: The company was renamed "McDonald's Corporation".
  • 1961: McDonald's brothers agreed to sell Kroc business rights to their operation for $2.7 million, which Kroc borrowed from a number of investors (including Princeton University). The agreement allowed the brothers to keep their original restaurant—renamed "The Big M"—which remained open until Kroc drove it out of business by opening a McDonald's just one block north. Had the brothers maintained their original agreement, which granted them 0.5% of the chain's annual revenues, they would have been collecting nearly $180 million per year today.
  • early 1960s: One of Kroc's marketing insights was his decision to market McDonald's hamburgers to families and children. A Washington, DC franchisee sponsored a children's show called Bozo's Circus, 'Bozo' was a franchised character, played (in Los Angeles) by Willard Scott. After the show was cancelled, Goldstein hired Scott to portray McDonald's new mascot, "Ronald McDonald" in the first three television advertisements featuring the character. The character was eventually spread to the rest of the country via an advertising campaign, although it was decided that both Scott and his version of the original costume were unsuitable for the role. An entire cast of McDonaldland characters was developed.
Restaurant interior
Restaurant interior
  • 1990: On January 31, the first McDonald's opened in Moscow. In contrast to the fast food stereotypes of McDonalds in the United States where it is seen as cheap, convenient, low quality food, in parts of the world such as Russia and China, McDonald's food is seen as a status symbol and the restaurants are admired for their atmosphere and cleanliness.
  • 1992: Stella Liebeck receives third degree burns from coffee purchased at a McDonald's drive-through. She sued in what became known as the McDonald's coffee case.
  • circa 1995: McDonald's receives complaints from franchisers that too many franchises were being granted, leading to competition among franchisees. McDonald's started conducting market impact studies before granting further franchises.
  • 1997: McDonald's wins the "McLibel" case, in what many consider to be a Pyrrhic victory in terms of its image.
  • 2001: The FBI reported that employees of Simon Worldwide, a company hired by McDonald's to provide promotion marketing services for Happy Meals and the 'Millionaire'/'Monopoly' contest, stole winning game pieces worth more than $20 million.
  • 2002: A survey in Restaurants and Institutions Magazine , ranked McDonald's 15th in food quality among hamburger chains.
  • 2002: McDonald's posted its first quarterly loss ($344m) for the last quarter. It responded to the stiff competition from other fast food restaurants, offering higher quality burgers and more variety, by attempting to move more upmarket by expanding its menu and refitting restaurants.
  • 2003 McDonalds started a global marketing campaign which promotes a new healthier and higher-quality image. The campaign was labeled "I'm lovin' it™" and began simultaneously in more than 100 countries around the world.
  • 2003: According to Technomic, a market research firm, McDonald's share of the market has fallen 3% in five years and is now at 15.2%. [1]
  • 2003: The firm reports a $126m loss for the fourth quarter [2].


Drive-through window
Drive-through window

As the world's largest restaurant chain, McDonald's is the target for criticism. Even though the majority interest in its foreign franchise locations are locally owned, the company is seen as a symbol of American domination of economic resources. Urban legends about the company and its food abound and it is often the target of unusual lawsuits.

Some franchises in the Middle East have been targets of arson and other acts of violence because the business represents, to the attackers, an invasion by American business and culture that they oppose based on a nationalist or Islamist ideology.

However, McDonalds has modified its products to cater for local tastes, not least in countries that have special dietary laws. In Muslim countries like Malaysia, bacon is not served in McDonalds burgers or in its breakfast menu, as pork is haram, or not permissible under Islamic dietary law. In Israel, the nature of kosher dietary laws, forbidding the mixture of meat and dairy products, means that cheeseburgers are not popular among Jewish customers; furthermore, all meat not prepared in a certain manner is considered unkosher by strict observers of the dietary laws. McDonalds has taken steps to cater to Jewish customers by opening a kosher McDonalds in Jerusalem and by offering a 'Passover Bun' for the eight-day period in which practicing Jews abstain from leavened bread. In India, the fact that Hinduism forbids the eating of beef has prompted McDonalds to look for alternatives, like lamb.

Soft drinks on offer also vary from country to country, with local brands available on tap alongside Coca Cola, Fanta, etc. For example, Irn Bru in Scotland and Guarana in Brazil are more popular in those countries than the leading international brands.


A McDonald's in San Jose, Costa Rica. McDonalds has over 31,000 stores worldwide.
A McDonald's in San Jose, Costa Rica. McDonalds has over 31,000 stores worldwide.

As the world's largest fast-food company, McDonald's has been the target of criticism for allegations of exploitation of entry-level workers, ecological damage caused by agricultural production and industrial processing of its products, selling unhealthy (non-nutritious) food, production of packaging waste, exploitative advertising (especially targeted at children), and contributing to suffering and exploitation of livestock.

In the high profile McLibel Trial McDonald's took two anti-McDonald's campaigners, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, to court for a trial lasting two and a half years - the longest in English legal history. McDonald's won the case: however, many of the campaigners' criticisms of the company were found to be fair, creating a great deal of bad publicity for the company. The judge's summary can be read at this external link

McDonald's has also been criticised for its litigious and heavy-handed approach to preserving its image and copyrights - in one case suing a Scottish cafe owner called McDonald for infringement of the name McDonald's, even though the business in question was a family business dating back well over a century. In South Africa, however, McDonald's had to battle against the country's trademark laws, which stated that a registered trademark had to be used within a certain period of time. This resulted in a local company announcing plans to launch its own fast food chain using the McDonalds name, although the South African High Court eventually ruled in McDonalds' favor.

McDonald's food is high in grease, fat, and cholesterol content. These are the ingredients of the plaque film build-up in the arterties that causes most forms of heart disease. Heart disease was virtually unknown in China, until McDonald's and other fast food outlets such as Kentucky Fried Chicken opened.

In June 2004 the UK's Private Eye reported that McDonald's was handing out meal vouchers, balloons and toys to children on pediatric wards. This was especially controversial as the report was made within weeks of a British Government report stating that the present generation may be the first to die before their parents due to spiralling obesity in the British population.

In 2004, Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me produced negative publicity for McDonald's, with suggestions that McDonald's food was contributing heavily to the rash of obesity in American society. Subsequent to the showing of the film at the Sundance Film Festival, McDonald's phased out its Supersize meal option, though no link to the film was cited in this decision.

Emblem for globalization

McDonalds has become emblematic of globalization. The Economist magazine uses the "Big Mac index" (the price of a Big Mac) as an informal measure of purchasing power parity among world currencies. Thomas Friedman suggested that no countries with McDonald's would go to war with each other, a "rule" broken by the American bombing of Serbia. It remains a target of anti-globalization protesters worldwide.

On July 18, 1984, there was a shooting at a San Ysidro McDonald's by the Yum Yum doughnut shop. James Oliver Huberty killed 21 innocent people and wounded 19 before being shot by a police sniper.


McDonald's on Nanjing Road in Shanghai
McDonald's on Nanjing Road in Shanghai

McDonald's is also known as

Food offered at most McDonald's outlets

The range of foods offered depends on the time of day. In the morning, when designated breakfast foods are served, certain other items such as the Big Mac are not available.

International adaptions and variations

The traditionial hamburger made of ground beef served at most McDonald's is varied in some countries as is the name. In India the Big Mac transmogrifies into the Marharaja Mac, a mutton burger in deference to religious injuctions against the conumption of beef and pork. Also in India vegetarian and meat dishes are prepared in separate areas of the restaurant in respect for vegetarians. In Thailand the Samurai Pork Burger, flavored with teriyaki sauce , is served. In Japan rice dishes are served and a chicken sandwich flavored with soy sauce and ginger. Names of dishes include the Kiwi Burger, the McHuevo, the McNifica, the McAfrika and the McLaks.

See also


External links

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45