On this day in 1909, the co-founder of the McDonald’s fast food chain was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. Richard and his brother Maurice established the first McDonald’s in 1948 in California. The restaurant became a franchise in 1953. The iconic Golden Arches were included in the restaurant designs at the suggestion of Richard McDonald. The brothers did not want to expand the chain too much, and only desired a small number of restaurants. Others, however, had bigger dreams for McDonald’s. In 1961, Ray Kroc bought the company from the brothers for $2.7 million and transformed the restaurant chain into a corporation. The business expanded from there, and in 1984 Richard was served the ceremonial 50 billionth McDonald’s hamburger. Maurice McDonald died in 1971 aged 69, and his brother Richard died in 1998 aged 89. The brothers began with a dream of becoming millionaires; they most certainly achieved this.
What began as a humble burger joint in the 1940s is now a corporate behemoth with a presence in 119 countries around the world. With around 68 million customers per day, McDonald’s draws huge profits – in 2012 its annual revenues were $27.5 billion. The presence of McDonald’s in a country has become symbolic of the process of globalisation, which has also been termed ‘Westernisation’, ‘Americanisation’ and ‘McDonaldsisation’. Its cheap fast food has also often been blamed for rising obesity rates in Western countries like America and Great Britain; those who cannot afford healthier and more expensive options have to resort to McDonald’s. One can endlessly debate the merits and failings of corporations like McDonald’s, but we can all agree that its fame and global reach is far from what the McDonald brothers envisioned all those years ago.