On October 5, 1902, American entrepreneur Ray A. Kroc was born. Kroc rose from humble beginnings and built McDonald's into the most famous and successful fast-food restaurant in the world. Here are five things you probably didn't know about McDonald's.
McDonald's Was Originally a Barbecue Joint By the time Kroc first visited the restaurant, it was serving a small assortment of burgers, sides, and drinks. However, between its creation in 1940 and 1948, McDonald's was actually a barbecue joint, serving ribs and meat-based sandwiches. Even in that incarnation, it was incredibly popular with the local teens and quickly became a hangout. In 1948, the founders of McDonald's, two brothers named Dick and Mac McDonald, actually closed the restaurant for some massive menu overhauls. They reopened as a burger joint with a unique ordering and cooking system that was light-years more efficient than other restaurants.
McDonald's Created Its Drive-Thru Specifically to Help Soldiers McDonald's was not the first restaurant to have a drive-thru; that honor goes to Red's Hamburg in Missouri (the story that In-N-Out had the first drive-thru isn't quite correct—it's not the oldest overall, but the chain is the oldest existing company with a drive-thru). But in 1975, the manager of the McDonald's in Sierra Vista, Arizona, introduced a drive-thru as a solution to a vexing problem: The fact that the local soldiers at Ft. Huachuca couldn't come into the restaurant in uniform. An old decorum rule stated that soldiers couldn't wear uniforms in public and off-base, which meant the soldiers couldn't waltz into the restaurant for a burger. The manager heard that another McDonald's was toying with the idea of a drive-thru when it occurred to him (the Sierra Vista manager) that the drive-thru would be a perfect compromise. Soldiers could order, but they wouldn't have to get out of the car, and thus they technically wouldn't be in public in their uniforms.
McDonald's Didn't Have In-Restaurant Seating Until the 1970s Until the 1970s, McDonald's locations were pretty spartan. There were a few outdoor benches, but the custom was for people to eat in their cars or take the food home. In the 1970s, though, McDonald's and other fast-food places began adding indoor seating when they found out that people wanted to eat there, but in a sheltered environment (rain-soaked fries are no fun), much like they would at a full-service restaurant. Interestingly, in 2016, the chain both expanded and reduced its restaurant-like offerings; some locations are playing with a remote ordering system and table service, while others are going back to the takeout-only model with no indoor space for customers.
The Longest-Running McDonald's Still in Existence Was Independent of the Chain Until 1990 The original location is now a museum, but the oldest running McDonald's marched to its own drummer for decades. Kroc originally came on board to help the McDonald brothers with franchising, and one of those franchises, in Downey, California, signed a special agreement that basically freed it from the dictates of the main corporate office. The company took over the location in 1990, but until then, the restaurant didn't have to add the same menu items or have the same decor. Even now, while it's part of the main chain, the location still serves the beloved deep-fried apple pie, which was discontinued in 1992 and replaced with a baked version.
McDonald's Was an Unwitting Player in One of the Biggest Game Scandals of the 20th Century In July 2018, the Daily Beast ran a story that amazed readers. It detailed how the Monopoly game run as a promotion for McDonald's became the center of one of the biggest scandals of the 20th century. Employees who were supposed to handle the security for the prize pieces instead took those pieces for themselves, giving them to friends, relatives, and acquaintances who they thought they could trust. The scam ran for 12 years until the FBI was able to stop it.