What You Should Know About McDonald’s Before Your Next Trip to the Drive-Thru
From a small barbecue restaurant to the largest fast-food chain globally, McDonald’s has undergone extremely interesting transformations. It has mastered the art of selling fries, made its way into countless children’s sweet spots, and became a staple in many people’s lives. However, it wasn’t always this way.
McDonald’s had to make a lot of strategic decisions to help them succeed, and this included getting creative and forward-thinking with their business practices. Don’t be fooled – McDonald’s is much more than just a fast-food chain. Here is a rundown of some of the most interesting facts about the ubiquitous restaurant. By the time you reach the end of the list, your eyes will be opened to what really goes on behind the scenes of this fast-food empire.
1. McDonald’s Coke Hits Different
McDonald’s Coke is different from any other Coke because it is sweeter and has less caffeine. Many people wonder why such a major company as McDonald’s does not make their Coke any stronger. Everyone will agree that the taste of their Coke makes everyone’s taste buds go crazy.
The extra sweetness and reduced caffeine content allow people of all ages to enjoy McDonald’s Coke. But, how do they do it? Well, McDonald’s receives Coke in syrup form and then post-mixes it in-store with soda water.
2. Bubble-Gum Flavored Broccoli
McDonald’s is constantly creating new products to sell in the market, and this time they opted to make a healthy snack for kids to enjoy. In 2014, the company decided to start selling a new kind of broccoli that tasted like bubblegum. The company embarked on this mission to encourage young people to consume vegetables and prevent them from selecting unhealthy menu options.
McDonald’s experts created it alongside independent health experts. The vegetable went through rigorous testing to determine whether it would meet the important criteria of being healthy and tasting good. Sadly, kids found it far too weird, so this experiment never made it past the lab.
3. McDonald’s in Japan
It is a huge step for McDonald’s to embrace the culture and language of Japan. It helps them win over the audience and gain revenue. Customers seem to like the change, and more and more people are starting to visit McDonald’s locations in Japan. The company also creates new menus only available in McDonald’s Japan.
McDonald’s knows how to adapt to changes in every country, and for this one, they leveled up their game. The main McDonald’s mascot is known as Ronald McDonald in most countries, but in Japan, they changed it to Donarudo Makudonarudo. This is written in Katakana and translates to Donald McDonald.
4. Friendship 500
During Expo ‘86, McDonald’s launched a restaurant on a barge. Robert Allan Ltd created one of five McDonald’s restaurants inside the Expo grounds to showcase advanced technologies and architecture. It is 187-ft long and is still around, though it’s not in the best shape.
The abandoned McBarge remained anchored in Burrard Inlet from 1991 to December 2015, tucked away between industrial barges and an oil refinery. Today, you can see the old barge docked at a private property on the Fraser River.
5. Happy Meal Ban
San Francisco passed an ordinance banning fast-food chains from giving out complimentary toys with children’s meals that do not meet nutritional guidelines. This ordinance was set to have a massive impact on McDonald’s. Happy meals are a huge part of the fast-food chain’s menu, and we all know that they are a strongly competitive food item because kids love to get toys with their meals.
To continue selling Happy Meals, McDonald’s began charging 10 cents for the toy in San Francisco. The revenue goes to Ronald McDonald House, the company’s children’s cancer charity. It permits them to continue selling unhealthy foods to youngsters in the face of a growing obesity epidemic.
6. McDonald’s Pizza
Can you believe McDonald’s tried selling pizza? Yes, McDonald’s did sell pizza in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. The McPizza flopped for factors that should have been obvious before it launched. On top of the fact that pizza just doesn’t fit the brand, the pizza didn’t cook quickly enough to keep up with the rest of the menu.
By 2000, most restaurants had stopped serving pizza because a pizza takes 11 minutes to prepare, and McDonald’s wanted to preserve its reputation for rapid service. As of 2021, McDonald’s pizza is only available at the Orlando, Florida McDonald’s.
7. The Queen’s McDonald’s
Queen Elizabeth II owns Banbury Gateway, a shopping park that includes McDonald’s. At 27 Banbury Gateway Shopping Park in Buckinghamshire, residents and tourists alike can indulge their food cravings at this one-of-a-kind restaurant inside a building owned by the Queen.
This restaurant, which serves both fine dining and quick cuisine, is highly recommended by travelers visiting Buckinghamshire for various reasons. Due to its popularity, it has become a major tourist attraction. Don’t forget to drop by McDonald’s if you happen to visit Buckinghamshire.
8. Famous Employees from McDonald’s
A lot of celebrities worked at McDonald’s before they became famous. While in high school, Rachel McAdams was an employee of McDonald’s, and she was only paid $6 per hour. Jerry Seinfeld is another renowned personality who worked at McDonald’s while he was attending high school.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the famous playwright, was also once an employee of McDonald’s. Let’s not forget about Pharrell Williams, the voice behind the song “Happy,” who was fired three times while working in McDonald’s. Being a McDonald’s crew member was clearly not the ideal role for him!
9. The Szechuan Sauce
Szechuan sauce is a Chinese dipping sauce made with ground chili peppers, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and sesame oil. It is commonly served with many Chinese dishes, including hot pots. It is thicker than most Western-style hot sauces or spicy condiments. The name derives from the city of Sichuan in China, where it originated.
In the ‘90s, McDonald’s added Szechuan sauce to their dips, burgers, and pizzas. After the Disney movie Mulan was released; however, McDonald’s removed the sauce from their menus shortly after. A few years later, an episode of Rick and Morty mentioned McDonald’s former Szechuan sauce. It went viral and triggered a campaign, with fans asking McDonald’s to bring back the sauce. Eventually, McDonald’s brought it back briefly once more.
10. McDonald’s Original Mascot
Before the birth of the Golden Arches, McDonald’s used a mascot that became their logo. Before Willard Scott developed and played Ronald McDonald, Speedee was the first McDonald’s mascot. He was a character with a chef’s hat on his head, shaped like a hamburger.
Richard and Maurice McDonald designed Speedee as their first mascot. They named him Speedee because they wanted to promote their Speedee Service System. Speedee, unfortunately, resembled the Alka-Seltzer mascot named Speedy, patron saint of upset stomachs. That affects their marketing, which is why they changed it.
11. McDonald’s Monopoly Gone Wrong
We all know what Monopoly is and how it works. Some of us played it when we were young. However, it’s not meant to involve real money. McDonald’s changed all of that. Their Monopoly game was good marketing, but because real cash and prizes were involved, people were swarming to win the game, which inevitably produced cheaters.
One scammer cost McDonald’s about $24 million. It’s a story with so many twists that a documentary series title McMillions$ was created to depict the deception. Furthermore, a film directed by Ben Affleck and starring Matt Damon is also set to release in the future. All this real-world drama ended with an FBI sting.
12. Firing the Original Ronald McDonald
Ronald McDonald was the new mascot after Speedee, but did you know that the original Ronald McDonald was fired because his build was too unique? It’s insane, but we can confirm that it’s true. McDonald’s is now surprisingly strict when it comes to the people who play its characters.
Ronald has to be of a height and weight that make him seem uniform, no matter where in the world you encounter him. Anyone with unique proportions need not apply. If you win the role, you will be paid well, but this is on the condition of anonymity – you must never reveal that you play Ronald McDonald as a job. It’s almost like being a spy!
13. Justin Timberlake’s “I’m Lovin It”
“I’m Lovin It” is a song by Justin Timberlake, an American singer-songwriter. The music was developed as a jingle for McDonald’s. Timberlake and Pharrell Williams transformed the jingle into a single that had success on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 2 on April 29, 2002. It was Timberlake’s third US number-one single on the charts.
It was eventually certified platinum by the RIAA in December 2003. The single peaked at number 1 on both Billboard Pop Songs and Adult Contemporary charts. The song also received a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.”
14. Hula Burger
Ray Kroc introduced the Hula Burger to McDonald’s in the 1960s as a vegetarian option. They served this during Lent because Catholics often fast and give up certain types of food and meat during this time. It was a way of ensuring those participating in Lent could still come to McDonald’s.
The Hula Burger consists of grilled pineapple on a bun with cheese. However, it started getting hot competition when the Filet-O-Fish burger arrived. Eventually, McDonald’s stopped making the Hula Burger altogether since it was clear that its replacement, the Filet-O-Fish, was gaining a lot more momentum.
15. Peanut Butter Sandwich
Have you ever wondered, what if the brothers Richard and Mac didn’t remodel their early menus? If that were the case, we would still be able to get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at McDonald’s. So many other things would be different as well. The restaurant would be unrecognizable.
Their move of changing their menu to fit with the changing times helped them solidify their presence in the market. Now, people are used to McDonald’s having burgers, shakes, and fries. However, thanks to their quick reactions to societal changes, these core offerings are constantly evolving. Now that we think about it, though, a peanut butter sandwich would be delicious.
16. Banning Female Employees
If this were to happen today, McDonald’s would receive tremendous backlash from people all around the world. While this outdated hiring policy was clear gender discrimination, they believed it created an environment where families would feel more comfortable. They didn’t want to have teenage boys ogling female workers, so they just refused to hire female employees.
The ban persisted until the mid-to-late 1960s, when franchisees began insisting on a gender-balanced workforce. Even back when the ban was lifted, Kroc insisted that female employees be “flat-chested” and not operate the grill since they lacked the “stamina” for such hard work.
17. Largest McDonald’s
You can visit the largest McDonald’s in the world in Orlando, Florida. It is 64,000 square feet. The second-largest McDonald’s is situated in Berlin, Germany, and measures 55,000 square feet. Even compared to other massive McDonald’s, the Orlando restaurant is a monster.
You may also remember from earlier in the article that this location is the only one in the world that still serves pizza. Since it is so large, the restaurant can seat 700 people. It makes it possible to serve lots of customers quickly. It is less than three miles away from Disney World, so it gets thousands of tourists visiting daily.
18. Bobby Darin’s Case
McDonald’s faced a lawsuit from Bobby Darin’s family because of their character named Mac Tonight. The company failed to inform his family about it and failed to pay for rights to the song “Mack the Knife.” McDonald’s proposed a settlement of $50,000, which the family turned down.
There were conflicting reports about how Bobby Darin felt about the use of his music, but his widow says he would have been horrified at the character. In other words, there was no basis for using the work in the first place since Darin never permitted McDonald’s to use it and never would have agreed to it.
19. McDonald’s Is Banned in Some Countries
Some countries do not allow McDonald’s to cross their borders. The first country to ban McDonald’s was Iceland in 1996, after a dramatic increase in obesity rates. The ban lasted until 1999, when McDonald’s finally returned to Iceland after rethinking its menu and making healthier choices.
North Korea has officially banned McDonald’s since 2013. This country has a social system that only allows people to eat with their family or at restaurants with the government’s approval. They have never let foreign companies enter North Korea to do business, including McDonald’s.
20. The Aristocrat
The Big Mac was originally named the Aristocrat, and it was the invention of two brothers, Jim Delligatti and Michael Delligatti. They were twins, although not identical. They worked at their father’s franchise in the Pittsburgh area called Big Mac Drive-In.
Esther Glickstein, an employee at McDonald’s Corporate, suggested using Big Mac instead of The Aristocrat. The Big Mac received such a positive response from customers that it was made available nationwide in 1968. A center slice of bread is used to support the contents and avoid spilling.
21. The Most Expensive Flop
The Arch Deluxe burger quickly phased out after failing to gain traction despite a large marketing effort. It is regarded as one of the most costly flops of all time. However, it was covered up so well that most people don’t even know that it once existed.
Despite offering a quarter pound of beef, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, onions, ketchup, and a secret mustard and mayonnaise sauce, the Arch Deluxe Burger did not catch people’s attention. It was a tragic flop, but this incident made McDonald’s more careful about the product they planned on introducing in the future.
22. McDonald’s Golden Card
Many people are surprised when they hear about the Golden Card. Whoever owns a golden card is granted unlimited food from McDonald’s. Few people are known to hold a golden card, but we do know of some. Warren Buffett, who is the sixth richest man in the world, has a golden card. And though we don’t have all the details, many other people have one as well.
Rob Lowe is another one of the lucky few to have a golden card. The actor was popular for his role in the 80’s movies St. Elmo’s Fire, The Outsiders, and Porky’s. He spoke about his card during his TV guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2015.
23. The Legendary Donald Gorske
Donald Gorske has eaten a big mac almost every day since 1972. That’s right, for 40+ years, Donald Gorske has eaten nothing but McDonald’s. He ate one every day for over 30 years before finally quitting. When he was asked why he stopped, he said his cholesterol was too high and that the food was “a real killer.”
He had more on his mind than just health issues. Donald Gorske also claims that children who eat McDonald’s are more likely to get obese and develop diabetes later in life because they lack an appreciation of foods like kale. For this reason, Donald wanted to teach children about healthier options by quitting his 30-year Big Mac habit. However, Gorske did achieve the Guinness World Record for most Big Macs eaten in a lifetime.
24. Shamrock Shake
The Shamrock Shake is a minty milkshake with a seductive green hue that mint lovers adore. It’s a limited-edition product sold at McDonald’s around St. Patrick’s Day. But did you know that it wasn’t supposed to be mint flavored? According to Ronald McDonald, the Shamrock Shake was supposed to taste like the green M&M’s candy. Over time, however, the mint taste became more popular, and it stuck.
Grimace’s uncle, Uncle O’Grimacey, was once used to promote Shamrock Shakes at McDonald’s, but he has since been phased out. McDonald’s first launched the Shamrock Sundae in 1980, and it was a blend of vanilla ice cream with minty green Shamrock syrup on top.
25. McDonald’s in India
McDonald’s has a way of embracing the culture of the country they are in, just like what they did in Japan. In India, the Big Mac is called a Maharaja Mac. They changed the name to meet the cultural needs of Indian society.
That’s not the end of the changes made by McDonald’s stores in India. They also tailored their menus to give respect to Hindu beliefs. Instead of beef patties, they serve chicken or veggie patties. They even change the spices and cooking methods used in most stores to accommodate Indian taste preferences.
26. Mayor McCheese Disappearance
Mayor McCheese is a well-known character from the McDonald’s mascot universe. The character, who presides as a mayor of McDonaldland, was based on H.R. Pufnstuf. He was a popular character that vanished because of a lawsuit filed against McDonald’s.
McDonald’s was sued by H.R. Pufnstuf founders Sid and Marty Krofft, who claimed that McDonaldland was a copy of H.R. Pufnstuf. On May 17, 2007, Mayor McCheese was dropped, only to return years later with many changes to his appearance.
27. Quarter Pounder Over Third Pounder
A&W introduced the third-pound burger to rival the quarter-pound burger. They also made their food slightly more healthy. A&W created a campaign to promote the new burger. However, all the promotions were not enough. People kept coming back to McDonald’s and ordering the quarter-pound burger.
Most people preferred the McDonald’s quarter-pound burger because it was cheaper, bigger, and more convenient. Though the third-pounder was healthier, people found it unattractive and expensive. Apparently, many didn’t understand that a third-pound patty is larger than a quarter-pound patty. So, the price difference didn’t make sense. Perhaps A&W should have offered math lessons in tandem with their ad campaign.
28. McDonald’s in Sedona, Arizona
The natural beauty of Sedona, Arizona, is breathtaking. The city of Sedona’s Planning and Preservation Commission has a set of goals for future developments. Maintaining the natural beauty and character of the town is a priority. They have rules on how a business can present itself, especially when it comes to exterior colors.
Businesses are not allowed to use colors that clash with nature’s elements. In most cases, companies must use neutral colors such as white or brown, along with limited earth tones. To blend in with nature, McDonald’s had to change the color of their Golden Arches to turquoise blue instead of the traditional yellow that stands out against nature during sunset or sunrise.
29. Underwater Museum
The first McDonald’s restaurant Ray Kroc opened is now a museum. The McDonald’s Store Museum has been flooded due to bad weather in the Midwest and increasing water levels in the Des Plaines River.
McDonald’s reconstructed the property using the same designs after the previous shop was demolished in 1984. It’s decorated with an old-school single-arch, Speedee road sign, and according to reports, original 1950s kitchen equipment as well as a slew of mannequins dressed in vintage fast-food uniforms.
30. McDonald’s (Almost) Went to Space
NASA’s affiliate company, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wanted to partner with McDonald’s for a very specific reason: to land a spacecraft on an asteroid. NASA wanted to get McDonald’s on board with the project because they knew McDonald’s had a powerful impact on children. They tried to get them involved in space exploration to show all their young customers that they could do anything if they put their minds to it.
They brainstormed the idea at a very small meeting of JPL employees, discussing what an ideal partnership would be for both parties. Afterward, they presented it at a much larger meeting where all departments were present for discussion and voting. In the end, they canceled the project because it went over their budget.
31. US McDonald’s Store
In the United States, there are around 13,000 McDonald’s restaurants. It demonstrates how much Americans enjoy McDonald’s and how they eat. In the lower 48 states, McDonald’s is never more than 145 miles away. There is no reason for anyone to be concerned about not having a McDonald’s nearby.
The furthest location is in the Nevada Desert and South Dakota. No matter how far or near a McDonald’s store is located, people are still more likely to go there than anywhere else. It is because of the convenience, the taste, and the nostalgia. They can eat there any time they want without having to go very far.
32. The McDonald’s Beehive in Sweden
For years, McDonald’s has been at the top of the fast-food industry. It is a global brand with its own set of rules, and it has always been straightforward in promoting fast food. The golden arches are omnipresent in almost every country, but what about Sweden?
Instead of catering to humans, there’s a McDonald’s in Sweden that caters to bees. That’s right, the “McHive” is a miniature model of a McDonald’s restaurant that is actually a beehive on the inside. This is to show McDonald’s support for saving the bees. Over five McDonald’s locations in Sweden now include beehives on their roofs to support the movement.
33. McDonald’s Only Ski Store
In the North of Stockholm, you can find the only McDonald’s located at a ski resort. If you visit Lindvallen Ski Resort, you will find not only an amazing ski slope but also a McDonald’s with the distinction of sitting at the highest point in Stockholm.
The Swedish McDonald’s was not planned as an attraction to draw tourists. Rather, it was built to service the employees of Lindvallen Ski Resort, which is operational 365 days a year. It has no indoor seating and is often inaccessible by car during wintertime.
34. The Problem with Plastic Straws
Straws made out of plastic can harm animals and damage the environment. However, long before people started campaigning against the use of plastic straws, McDonald’s faced an entirely different form of complaint.
In 1984, they changed the color scheme of their straws, and it caused turmoil in the Gulf of Mexico. Small fishing operations there had used the previous version of the straw to catch Spanish mackerel, but a simple change in color from McDonald’s was all it took for the fish to have no interest in the lures made from their straws. It’s so wild to think about how such a small choice could have such large flow-on effects.
35. McDonald’s Toys
You may imagine that McDonald’s has a toys factory because they give out more toys than other businesses. McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain restaurant, and franchises have been giving out toys since 1979. Surely, though, companies like Walmart and Target sell more toys. Right?
The truth of the matter is that McDonald’s is indeed the largest distributor of toys in the world! They once considered handing out books instead of plastic toys, and if they’d made this move, they would have become the world’s largest book distributor. Amazing!
36. McDonald’s PR Problems
In the mid-1980s, McDonald’s launched the McDLT. It was a plain burger with lettuce and tomato, but it arrived in a styrofoam box that kept the lettuce and tomato separated from the beef patty, keeping the veggies cool and the meat warm.
With any business, PR can be a nightmare. Even McDonald’s isn’t immune to horrible PR problems, and they were hit with a massive one involving the McDLT. The country was growing more environmentally concerned, and the double-container did double the damage. So, McDonald’s had no choice but to ditch it.
37. The Bermuda Ban
Did you know there’s no McDonald’s in Bermuda? This island nation has no desire to be overrun by corporate expansion, so the government brought in the Prohibited Restaurants Act (1977) to keep chains like McDonald’s off the island.
One McDonald’s restaurant did manage to sneak onto the island in 1985, opening at a US Naval Station. However, that station closed in 1995, and the sneaky McDonald’s went along with it. Now, Bermuda is back to being free of large corporate franchises.
38. Satanic Cult Rumors
McDonald’s has been involved in several controversies, but this one is out of this world. McDonald’s had to defend themselves from a rumor about their franchise founder Ray Kroc being involved in a satanic cult. It was eventually dismissed because it was not true.
Since the cult rumors started circulating, they did an extensive review of all their franchises to ensure there wasn’t an underground satanic cult running away with McDonald’s secrets (a ridiculous idea). This is an excellent example of the destructive power of rumors.
39. Bigger McDonald’s Menu
It is a risk for McDonald’s to create large products on the menu. Why? Because of their mandated 90 second turnaround time. They would have to find ways to keep up with the same prep time for their big menu. The McWrap is an example of a product that consumes extra time that McDonald’s employees just don’t have.
Most people know that McDonald’s has begun changing its classic menus in response to growing customer demands for healthier options. Still, have you considered how this might affect your order? It may take more time to prepare some of the new menu items, which can affect your total wait time.
40. Success Story
Ray Kroc and Walt Disney met before they became successful. They both trained to be ambulance drivers. There was a lot of work to do, so they communicated via mail. The two men finally met again when Kroc went to Disney’s office.
The meeting lasted only half an hour. However, within five years, Walt Disney had sold his company and retired while Kroc was at the top of his game, expanding McDonald’s into a multi-billion dollar enterprise with around 39,000 outlets in more than 100 countries around the world. Both men carry an incredible legacy to their name.