Happy Birthday, Big Mac! 4 Stories about America's Best-Known Burger

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McDonald's best-known burger turns 40 this year. And since professional ethics prevent us from revealing the ingredients of the Special Sauce, we'll try to make up for that by sharing a few other "secrets" behind those two all-beef patties and their signature accoutrements.

1. The Genius behind the "˜Mac

Back when Michael James "MJ" Delligatti became interested in opening his own restaurant in the mid-1950s, he visited a restaurant show in Chicago. When he happened by the McDonald's booth, the McRepresentative invited Delligatti to visit a newly opened McDonald's francise nearby. After doing some research, MJ realized that if he opened a Mickey D's, the money he'd save on buying paper goods through the company would pay his franchise fee. He opened a McDonald's in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1957 and did very well. Yet, he felt something was missing from the menu. Parents bought burgers for their youngsters, but MJ believed that a larger, more "adult" sandwich would encourage Mom and Dad to dine along with the kids. Before adding anything to his menu, however, he had to get approval from Headquarters. The Corporate office finally agreed to let him try a new burger with the proviso that he only use ingredients already on hand. He christened his creation the "Big Mac" and sold it for 49 cents. Sales spiked so much that Corporate couldn't help but notice and add the Big Mac to their national menu in 1968.

2. The Slim Man who Eats Nothing but Big Macs

Picture 9.pngThose stodgy ol' spoilsport nutritionists can drone on and on about how dangerous Big Macs are"¦saturated fat"¦blah blah"¦cholesterol"¦blah blah"¦heart disease"¦ But we have only to look at Don Gorske of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, for McReassurance. He has been eating at least two Big Macs per day since 1972, and has since consumed over 20,000 of the double-decker burgers. Yet at six feet tall he maintains a weight of about 180 lbs. and an admirable cholesterol count of 140. Gorske admits that he never eats fries, just Big Macs, so perhaps that's the secret.

3. More Memorable than the Commandments

It was a fated affair: McDonald's was looking for a new ad agency in 1970, and Keith Reinhard, a creative director at Needham, Harper & Steers, had done his homework. He'd posted himself outside of several different McDonald's outlets and polled customers as they exited on what they liked best. His research determined that Mom loved not having to cook, and Mickey D's was quick and affordable (unlike most family-style sit-down restaurants). He came up with the slogan "You deserve a break today" and landed the prestigious McDonald's account for his company. Not long after that, he coined what seemed like a hopelessly awkward jingle for the Big Mac: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun." However, a clever "man on the street" commercial campaign showing ordinary citizens trying to recite the phrase ingrained the run-on burger description in everyone's mind and became a classic. A 2007 survey by Kelton Research found that of 1,000 Americans who identified themselves as Christians, 80% could accurately recite the Big Mac ingredients jingle, while only 60% could name all of the Ten Commandments.

4. Big Mac Mania

Picture 8.pngBig Macs are sold in over 100 countries today, with the United States leading the pack at 550 million consumed annually. Japan is next, followed by Europe (specifically the combination of the U.K., Germany and France) and then Canada. So how much of a commission does MJ Delligatti get from every Big Mac sold? Nada. The Corporate office did issue him a very nice plaque, however.

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July 8, 2008 - 11:13am
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