75 of the Craziest Facts About McDonald’s
With billions of people served, McDonald's has played a fascinating role in shaping international culture since its first restaurant opened. Here, a compilation of surprising McDonald's trivia even its most loyal customers may not know.
It started as a BBQ restaurant
Seventy-five years ago, in 1940, brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald opened up the first McDonald’s restaurant—a BBQ joint—in San Bernardino, California (it’s now a museum). Eight years later, they switched to burgers, shakes, potato chips, and pie. The McDonalds purchased several Multi-mixers for use in their establishment, and when Multi-mixer salesman Ray Kroc visited, he was impressed by their success and efficiency. Kroc purchased franchise rights from the brothers. In 1955, he opened his first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois. Looking for more McDonald’s facts? This is the first McDonald’s menu ever.
The military inspired its first drive-through
McDonald’s first drive-through opened in 1975 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. What inspired the then-revolutionary concept? The restaurant was located near a military base, and soldiers were not allowed to leave their cars while wearing fatigues. Want to learn more pop-culture facts? These questions from Jeopardy will stump you.
The Ronald McDonald House makes a big impact
All those dimes and pennies do add up: In 2013, Ronald McDonald House Charities—the nonprofit organization that is McDonald’s charity of choice—raised around $450 million. It used those funds to help nearly 9 million children and their families worldwide. Today, RMHC has nearly 300 local chapters in 58 countries and regions.
There are more McDonald’s restaurants than hospitals
There are almost more than one-and-half times more McDonald’s locations than hospitals in the United States: 14,350 versus 10,660. Find out the only U.S. state capital without a McDonald’s.
It used to own most of Chipotle
McDonald’s invested in Chipotle in 1998, back when the fast-Mexican chain consisted of 16 restaurants. By 2006, McDonald’s owned 90 percent of Chipotle—which had grown to 500 locations—but it sold its stake in order to focus on McDonald’s.
It doesn’t have the fastest drive-through
The average McDonald’s drive-through transaction took roughly three minutes, or 189.49 seconds, according to one study; the fast-food leader was Wendy’s with a 133.63-second turnaround time.
McDonald’s Coca-Cola really is different
Some discerning diners believe that the Coke served at McDonald’s tastes better than it does at other places. They may be onto something: Only at McDonald’s is the Coke syrup delivered in stainless steel tanks to preserve its freshness; elsewhere, it’s transported in plastic bags.
The Golden Arches used to look different
Founder Richard McDonald first sketched the Golden Arches as an architectural feature to attract customers in cars looking from the roadside, but it took five more years for the arches to be linked into an M (shown at right, at a present-day restaurant in Downey, California, the oldest one still in operation). Did you know there might be a hidden sexual meaning behind McDonald’s gold arches?
It’s one of the most famous symbols
The Golden Arches are said to be the most recognized symbol in the world, even ahead of the cross.
It’s home to the … Turquoise Arches?
The McDonald’s in Sedona, Arizona, has the world’s only turquoise arches—the owners of that franchise were told that they needed to make the location more in keeping with the distinct desert environment. The blue was chosen to echo the sky, and the building is more orange and red to resemble the surrounding terrain.
McDonald’s menus look different all over the world
While many international McDonald’s look the same as their American counterparts, their menus contain unique items that reflect local tastes. Some examples: nurnburger, or three bratwursts on a bun (Germany); creamy stars, or deep-fried star-shaped pieces of cheese (Italy); McFalafel and McKebab (Israel); McSpaghetti, or pasta served with Chicken McNuggets on the side (Philippines); McRice burger, or a burger in which rice patties are used instead of a bun (Singapore); quiche de quejo, or cheese quiche (Brazil); red bean pie (Hong Kong); McAloo Tikki burger, or a spiced-potato burger (India). Check out how the McDonald’s menu has changed throughout the years.
You can get Mickey D’s on skis
Since 1996, skiers have been able to schuss into the world’s only ski-through McDonald’s in the Lindvallen resort area in Sweden.
Some stores have outlandish decor
Many people probably wish they could dine on McDonald’s on a flight instead of airline food; for now, they’ll have to settle for dining at a New Zealand McDonald’s, which includes an actual retired aircraft as part of the restaurant.
The Golden Arches aren’t always golden
At its Paris Champs-Elysees restaurant, McDonald’s typically yellow Golden Arches are neon white to blend in with the lighting of that location. This is the real reason the logo is yellow and red.
One location is floating around
In all the world, there is one floating McDonald’s. Known as the McBarge, it’s in Vancouver, Canada. It was built for and served food at the 1986 World’s Fair, but it is now abandoned. Perhaps it should open as a sail-through?
Queen Elizabeth II owns a McDonald’s
The Queen of England owns approximately $11 billion of real estate in the United Kingdom; among her holdings is a McDonald’s near Buckingham Palace. So far, she has yet to dine there—but she may be more of a drive-through type.
The famous Pulp Fiction line wasn’t quite right
Samuel Jackson’s character came pretty close in Pulp Fiction: a Quarter Pounder in France is called a Royal Cheese, not a Royale with Cheese. This is the McDonald’s with the best menu in the world.
The fast-food joint will cater your wedding
Golden wedding arches: McDonald’s in Hong Kong offers a variety of wedding packages. The deluxe package, which costs around $1,200, includes a two-hour rental of a decorated McDonald’s location, 50 invitations, McDonald’s gifts for 50 guests, a pair of McDonald’s balloon wedding rings, a bridal bouquet, apple pie display, and an emcee.
It’s been going green across the pond
In the United Kingdom, McDonald’s has launched a program to recycle its employees’ uniforms. Some of the material will be re-spun into fiber to make new uniforms; the rest will be shredded and used to stuff mattresses.
McDonald’s is banned in certain countries
Nations that have placed a ban on McDonald’s include Bermuda, Montenegro, Kazahstan, and Macedonia. Here are more countries that have banned McDonald’s.
It gets creative with its trays
In another innovation, McDonald’s Hungary and the advertising agency DDB Budapest recently unveiled the BagTray: a paper bag that has a reinforced cardboard tray at its bottom. By ripping off a strip of the bag, you can detach a sturdy tray.
You can find regional McDonald’s dishes across the country
You don’t need a passport to try exotic McDonald’s offerings. In some parts of America, McDonald’s restaurants sell their own specialty items. In the summer, you can get a McLobster roll at restaurants in New England. But Hawaii takes the prize: Choices include Saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup with fish cake, nori, char siu pork, and sliced scrambled eggs; a taro-root pie; and a breakfast platter with Spam or Portuguese sausage as the meat options.
Big Macs aren’t its top seller
McDonald’s best-selling menu item is … French fries! Check out the rest of the 10 most popular items at McDonald’s.
The Filet-o-Fish was invented for Lent
A McDonald’s franchise owner in Monfort Heights, Ohio, noticed that residents in his highly Catholic town did not eat hamburgers or cheeseburgers during Lent so he created a meat-free alternative, the Filet-o-Fish, which swam onto menus in 1962. Today, 23 percent of all Filet-o-Fish sales are thought to occur during Lent.
The fish in the filet was originally halibut
Now it’s wild-caught Atlantic pollock.
The chain’s worst-selling item may have been the Hula burger
Invented by Ray Kroc as a meatless alternative for Catholics on Lent, it consisted of a grilled piece of pineapple with a slice of cheese in a bun. It lasted a brief while in 1962. Here are the failed McDonald’s menu items you’ve probably never heard of.
The McGriddle was designed to fulfill every craving
McDonald’s McGriddle was invented by product developer Tom Ryan because he wanted a handheld breakfast item that was both sweet and savory. He is the Dr. Frankenstein of fast food. In an earlier job at Pizza Hut, he created stuffed-crust pizza and the Meat Lovers, Veggie Lovers, and Cheese Lovers pizzas. He is now the founder and chief concept officer at Smashburger.
There’s a Big(gest) Mac record
The world’s largest Big Mac can be found in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, at the Big Mac Museum (which bills itself “the most tasteful museum in the world”). While the mega-Mac is inedible—it’s a 14-foot-tall statue—hungry visitors can eat the real thing at the on-premises McDonald’s restaurant.
Menu items have dozens of ingredients
The number of ingredients in Chicken McNuggets? Forty, which is low compared to the ingredient list for the McRib, which has 70. By the way, this is why McNuggets always come in one of four shapes.
McNuggets were too popular for the chain
The McRib, which debuted in the chain’s restaurants in 1981, was invented in part because chicken farmers couldn’t keep up with the demand for McNuggets.
The McRib was thought to be a flop
The McRib was removed from the McDonald’s menu in 1985 due to its lack of popularity. But thanks to a loyal cult following, it came back in 1989 and was offered until 2005 in the chain’s restaurants in much of the world. From 2006 on, it’s been available for a few months every year. However, all along it has been a menu staple in one country: Germany. By the way, this is the drink you should never order at a McDonald’s, according to an employee.
You can hack the menu for a cheaper Big Mac
According to Reddit users, you can get a Big Mac for half the price if you order a McDouble without mustard or ketchup and add shredded lettuce and special sauce. The only difference will be the lack of a third bun.
One sandwich could cost $25
Customer Moshe Tamssot posted a YouTube video that showed him creating the biggest burger possible with the old “Create Your Taste” initiative that let customers customize their burgers. Although he was limited to two quarter-pound beef patties, he was able to add 10 times all the other ingredients. His sandwich was topped by 10 slices of bacon, 30 slices of cheese, and 10 servings of guacamole, tomato, pickles, lettuce, mushrooms, jalapeno peppers, raw onions, and grilled onions (not to mention a variety of sauces). The sandwich weighed 3.8 pounds and cost $24.89. We believe he is still digesting it.
Celebrity chefs have made McDonald’s gourmet
In a one-off event in 2013, McDonald’s challenged celebrity chefs to deploy McDonald’s ingredients to create a “McGourmet” meal. Guests at the NYC dinner enjoyed kung pao chicken (made with Chicken McNuggets and sweet-and-sour sauce), a tortilla espanola (hash browns and eggs), slow-cooked beef with blueberry pomegranate sauce (the chain’s blueberry-pomegranate smoothie) and gnocchi (French fries!), and washed it all down with mojitos (mango pineapple smoothie). Don’t miss these facts you never knew about McDonald’s fries.
No one knows who created its clown mascot
While there are disputes about who invented the Ronald McDonald character, Willard Scott—who later became famous for being The Today Show weatherman—was the first to portray him in TV ads.
Scott was fired from being Ronald McDonald in an ironic twist
He was deemed to be “too fat.”
It took nine years for fries to hit the menu
Fries debuted in 1949; before that, only potato chips were available. This is the secret ingredient behind the addictive flavor of McDonald’s fries.
Ronald McDonald goes by other names
In Japan, the character is known as Donald McDonald because of the lack of a clear “R” sound in Japanese.
Ronald has gone through wardrobe changes
The original Ronald McDonald wore a yellow-and-red striped suit, which he often accessorized with wearing a tray bearing a hamburger, fries, and milkshake as a hat.
The Egg McMuffin was inspired by a brunch favorite
Franchisee Herb Peterson created the Egg McMuffin, which became available in 1971, by modeling it off his breakfast of choice, eggs Benedict. This is the only McDonald’s Breakfast made with fresh eggs.
The mascot has a modern makeover
Ronald’s newest wardrobe consists of yellow cargo pants and a vest and a red-and-white striped rugby shirt; on special occasions, he tops it all with a red blazer emblazoned with golden arches on the front pocket. His new look was created by theatrical costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, who won a Tony for Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast.
One customer had a huge overreaction
In 2015, Shaneka Torres of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was sentenced to three to seven years in prison sentence after she was convicted of shooting a bullet in a McDonald’s drive-through window after she failed to receive bacon on her burger. She has also been banned from the restaurant for life.
Customers sue for the strangest things
In 2014, a McDonald’s customer sued the company for $1.5 million after claiming to suffer “undue mental anguish” after he received only one napkin with his order. This is why McDonald’s ice cream machines are always broken.
Sarah Michelle Gellar was banned from the restaurant
After starring in a McDonald’s-bashing ad for Burger King, the then-four-year-old actress Sarah Michelle Gellar was named in a lawsuit by the fast-food giant—and was banned from McDonald’s.
It’s been in fierce legal battles
While the best-known McDonald’s lawsuit in America is the one involving scalding coffee, the company is known in the U.K. for a different legal matter. In 1994, two members of the London Greenpeace group were sued by McDonald’s for distributing pamphlets that claimed the company was responsible for hunger in the Third World, deforestation, food poisoning, cruel treatment of animals, and paying low wages. The trial—dubbed the McLibel case—still stands as the longest in English history at 300 days, generating 20,000 pages of trial transcripts. The defendants were found guilty of making some libelous statements and ordered to pay a fine. But in 2005, they brought their case to the European Court, which declared that the case was in breach of the right to a fair trial and right to freedom of expression (mainly due to the unavailability of legal aid for the Greenpeace members).
One item has a day’s worth of calories
At a grand total of 1,880 calories, the 40-piece Chicken McNuggets are the highest calorie item on the regular menu. That’s more calories than many adults should consume in a single day. Find out the 5 healthiest things you can order at a McDonald’s.
‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ sued for copyright issues
Children’s television producers Sid and Marty Kroftt sued McDonald’s in 1973, saying that McDonaldland ripped off the “concept and feel” of their TV show H.R. Pufnstuf. McDonald’s was ordered to pay the brothers $1 million.
One man has eaten more than 30,000 Big Macs
In the Guinness Book of World Records, one record is unlikely to be beaten anytime soon: “Most Big Macs Consumed.” When Don Gorske of Wisconsin set the record (again) in 2016, he’d already consumed 28,788 sandwiches. He eats two a day, and by May 4, 2018, he’d eaten his 30,000th burger. He had his first at age 18 in 1972 (it cost 49 cents). He liked the sandwich so much that after eating it, he had eight more of them—for a one-day total of nine, a limit he has never exceeded. Both his weight and cholesterol are said to be normal, and he was still running marathons in 2006.
Mike Fountaine holds the record for owning the most McDonald’s related memorabilia
His 75,000-item collection—which includes buttons, uniforms, cups, and Happy Meal boxes and toys—spills over nine rooms of his Pennsylvania home. In 1968, a then-15-year-old Fountaine began working at the Golden Arches and began his collection one year later. Today he owns two McDonald’s restaurants. These are 17 secrets McDonald’s employees won’t tell you.
There’s a happy ending to the couple’s story
The Beckers were not left burger-less, however. Shawn Moss, who owns Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ restaurant in Culpeper, was so moved when he heard about the couple’s experience that he offered them one free “scrunch” a week for the rest of their lives.
You can visit a massive PlayPlace on your next Florida trip
The world’s largest McDonald’s PlayPlace is in the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. It includes a 500-gallon aquarium, waterfall, and 100 arcade games.
The Big Mac Special Sauce is in high demand
A limited-edition—one out of 200 produced in the world—500-ml bottle of McDonald’s Big Mac Special Sauce sold in Australia on eBay for $20,600 in Australian dollars, or around $16,144 U.S. One hundred percent of the profits went to Ronald McDonald House Charities. This is the secret that makes McDonald’s apple pies taste so good.
But the ingredients in the special sauce are no longer secret
According to the company website, it contains soybean oil, pickle relish, distilled vinegar, water (main components); egg yolks, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, garlic powder, vegetable protein, caramel color, paprika and turmeric extracts (for flavor and color); high fructose corn syrup, sugar (for sweetness); sodium benzoate, calcium disodium EDTA (for preservation of color and taste); propylene glycol alginate, mustard bran, soy lecithin (for thickness and creaminess).
eBay bent the rules for a coveted McNugget
In 2012, Rebekah Speight of Nebraska auctioned off a truly one-of-a-kind possession on eBay: a chicken McNugget that resembled George Washington. The winning bid was $8,100, which Speight planned to donate to her church’s youth camp. At the time of sale, the nugget was already three years old. In general, eBay bans the sale of expired food products, but the company made an exception.
Those in the know say that McDonald’s has a secret menu
The most popular items include the McLeprechaun shake (a chocolate shake mixed with their seasonal Shamrock Shake), the McKinley Mac (a Big Mac made with quarter-pounder patties), and the Land, Air, and Sea burger (a McChicken patty, beef patty, and Filet-o-Fish patty combined). Here are the McDonald’s secret menu items you need to know.
McDonald’s is the world’s largest distributor of toys
It gives away around 1.5 billion toys each year with Happy Meals.
Usain Bolt loves McNuggets
Jamaican runner Usain Bolt claims to have eaten around 1,000 chicken McNuggets during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where McDonald’s had an outpost in the Olympic Village. It was the lunch (or dinner) of champions: At those games, he won three gold medals and set three world records.
Ronald McDonald robbed a competitor (sort of)
In 2005, a man from Manchester, New Hampshire, robbed a Wendy’s. His name? Ronald MacDonald. Learn which McDonald’s is the most expensive McDonald’s in the world.
McDonald’s is a huge employer
One in eight U.S. workers has been employed by McDonald’s at some point in their careers.
Super Size Me showed the scary side of McDonald’s food
In the 2003 documentary Super Size Me, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock chronicled his 30-day, all-McDonald’s diet. At month’s end, Spurlock had gained 25 pounds, sent his cholesterol sky-rocketing, and caused serious harm to his liver. McDonald’s removed Super Size fries and drinks from its menu six weeks after the film’s release, although it said Super Size Me did not influence its decision.
Some of your favorite celebrities have worked at McDonald’s
Famous former employees of McDonald’s include Rachel McAdams, Pink, Macy Gray, Jay Leno, Carl Lewis, Jeff Bezos, and Andie MacDowell. Check out these other celebrities who used to work at McDonald’s.
Employee benefits are great
On a corporate level, McDonald’s has some pretty spectacular benefits. Employees get an extra week of paid time off in the years when they reach an anniversary ending with a “5” (5, 15, 25, etc.). They’re eligible for an eight-week paid sabbatical for every 10 years worked.
You can attend a real-life Hamburger University
In 1961, the company opened Hamburger University to train its executive employees; today, there are more than 2750,000 graduates. The original campus is in Oak Brook, Illinois, where McDonald’s is headquartered. Other campuses are in Tokyo, London, Sydney, Munich, Sao Paolo, and Shanghai. All together around the world, Hamburger U. employs more than 60 full-time college professors.
“McJob” is in the dictionary
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “McJob” is “an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector.” McDonald’s threatened to sue to change the definition but ultimately responded with a clever U.K. ad campaign that extolled the company’s employee benefits. It ended with the line: “Not bad for a McJob.” This is how much McDonald’s workers really make.
Employees have their own singing competition
McDonald’s holds its own version of American Idol. Called the Voice of McDonald’s, the competition shines the spotlight on the vocal talent of its 1.8 million employees. In its most recent contest, 58,000 McWorkers from 63 countries entered. Lucy Ospitia of Bucaramanga, Colombia, won the $25,000 grand prize. Rocky Rosabal from the Philippines won second prize ($17,500); third prize ($12,500) went to Ashlae Nelms from Illinois.
Its jingle was made by famous pop stars
The “I’m Lovin’ It” McDonald’s jingle was co-written by Pharell and recorded by Justin Timberlake.
You can gauge a country’s currency by its McDonald’s prices
The Economist created the “Big Mac Index” in 1986 as a shorthand way to determine whether a country’s currency is inflated. The index uses the international prices of a Big Mac, a globally available food product, to illustrate the differences in monetary value between nations. It’s still referenced today. In January 2019, the average price for a Big Mac was $5.58 in America and $6.62 in Switzerland. (All prices are in U.S. dollars.) Russia and Ukraine were among the cheapest places at which to buy a Big Mac, $1.65 and $1.94, respectively. Here’s where to find the most expensive Big Mac in the world.
Pro ice hockey goalie Andrew Hammond is nicknamed Hamburglar
How he earned it: A fan threw a burger on the ice at Hammond after a recent win (in 12 starts, he’d amassed an impressive 10-0-1 record); the goalie graciously accepted it but did not eat it because he said it was too cold. To ensure that he always has access to a hot burger, Hammond received—courtesy of McDonald’s in Canada—a special card that entitles him to a lifetime of free eats.
An elderly couple’s 60-plus year tradition was ruined there
Octogenarians Carl and Barbara Becker of Virginia were regulars at their local McDonald’s, where they liked stopping in for “scrunch”—a snack between lunch and supper. One day, an employee was sweeping up near them, and when asked if it bothered them, the couple answered that it did. A manager then told the Beckers that they’d exceeded their allowed 30 minutes in the restaurant and had to leave. The Beckers wrote a heartfelt letter to their local paper in which Carl explained how the incident had marred their McDonald’s ritual. For the pair, scrunch is “a sweet time of fellowship, which we enjoy, which helps sustain our marriage of 63 years,” wrote Carl. In response, McDonald’s corporate offices sent the couple coupons for two small coffees. The Beckers refused them but said they’d still patronize the chain—just not the Culpeper location.
One man has a potentially regrettable McDonald’s tattoo
In 2014, 18-year-old Stian Ytterdahl from Norway had a tattoo artist ink a McDonald’s receipt onto his arm after his friends dared him; a week later, he had the same receipt tattooed on his other arm. For the rest of his life, he’ll always know what he ate at 7:36 PM on March 24, 2014: a Coke, three cheeseburgers, a cheeseburger Happy Meal, a McFlurry NonStop with three extra toppings, and an extra Happy Meal toy. This is why you should always ask for your receipt at McDonald’s.
Mixed-sex groups affect eating behaviors
Scientists studying McDonald’s patrons found that female diners ate less when they were eating in mixed-sex groups rather than in same-sex groups, while male diners ate more in mixed-sex groups than in pairs, according to a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology.
The four McNugget shapes have names
Look for the boot, bone, ball, and bell in your next order. Check out these other 12 things you never knew about McNuggets.