14 Golden Facts About McDonald's

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Founded as a modest barbeque shop by brothers Richard and Maurice “Mac” McDonald in 1940, McDonald’s has grown to become synonymous with fast-service food (and car floors littered with paper wrappers). Pioneering preparation techniques have facilitated unimaginable numbers: the company stopped counting customers when they reached 100 billion back in 1994. Have a look at some things you may not know about the Golden Arches

1. McDonald's used to serve peanut butter sandwiches.

Richard and Mac McDonald opened their first location in San Bernardino, California in 1940 using a menu that would seem slightly puzzling today. Though barbecued meat was their specialty, the brothers also served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chili with baked beans, and slices of pie. After noticing most of their sales came from hamburgers, the McDonalds closed for three months in 1948 to retool their menu. They restricted themselves to just nine items, including burgers, drinks, and potato chips. (The pie stayed.)

2. The original McDonald's mascot was dropped because of indigestion.

To mark their 1948 facelift, McDonald’s introduced an official company mascot: Speedee, a burger-faced chef with a bow tie that looked like he was in a perpetual rush. The brothers noted that his round head would make a good base for a lollipop, and decided to hand out Speedee-shaped treats to orphanages and children’s hospitals as a charitable form of advertising. Unfortunately, Speedee seemed a little too similar to Alka-Seltzer mascot Speedy, patron saint of upset stomachs. To avoid confusion, Speedee was retired in 1962.

3. The original Ronald McDonald was fired for being too fat.

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After sending Speedee away, McDonald’s latched on to the concept of a spokes-clown. Future Today show weatherman Willard Scott was hired in 1963 after a stint as TV’s Bozo the Clown. By 1966, however, the company had plans to hire duplicate Ronalds to make appearances around the country: Fearing they would be unable to find heavyset actors to match Scott’s stocky build, they let him go. (Today, a full-time svelte Ronald can make roughly $40,000 a year, and is forbidden from disclosing his identity in public.)

4. McDonald's peddles more toys than anyone.

It’s reasonable to think massive chain retailers like Walmart or Target have the toy industry on lockdown, but thanks to their promotional habits, it turns out McDonald’s hands over more toys than any other business on the planet. More than 20 percent of the franchise’s sales come from Happy Meals, which feature a regular rotation of tiny trinkets. In 2013, the company was also poised to become the UK’s largest children’s book distributor when it substituted books for plastic prizes in the meals.

5. There may be a reason Coke tastes better at McDonald's.

Soda snobs have observed that the fountain drinks at McDonald’s locations seem to taste better than anywhere else. The company speculates that could be due to the fact they adhere to Coke’s strict guidelines for serving: the water and syrup mix are pre-chilled before being added to dispensers, and their straws are a little wider than usual so “all that Coke taste can hit your taste buds.”

6. The McDonald's McD.L.T. was a PR nightmare.

Of the company’s many menu gaffes—the McPizza, McSpaghetti, and McHot Dog—the McD.L.T. stands as their greatest cautionary tale. A hamburger that was packaged in a dual-clamshell Styrofoam container to keep the “cool” ingredients (lettuce and tomato) separate from the warm patty, it was roundly criticized for being extremely wasteful and harsh on the environment. It was introduced in the mid-1980s and discontinued in 1990.

7. A change in McDonald's straws once led to problems catching fish.

In a move that would have unforeseen, mackerel-related consequences, McDonald’s shifted their straw design in 1984 from a red-and-yellow color scheme to brown-and-yellow. The problem? Fishermen along the Gulf of Mexico had successfully used the original version to lure Spanish mackerel: Three lures could be made from a single sipper, and caught five times as many fish as any other lure. The new straws failed to attract any catches; McDonald’s dryly advised the distressed fishermen try Big Macs instead.

8. One McDonald's franchisee wanted to serve booze.


In October 1983, a Sierra, California resort McDonald’s owner applied for a local liquor license and inquired about being granted an exception to the company’s no-alcohol policy. His restaurant, located in the adult-heavy tourist community of Mammoth, would have become the first in the United States to serve beer and wine. (Some European Arches were more liberal.) Just a day after the requests were made public, however, the owner withdrew his plans.

9. A rumor about a satanic cult cut into McDonald's profits.

Amid the hysteria over heavy metal and Satanic cults in the 1970s, McDonald’s found themselves having to defend the company against allegations that franchise founder Ray Kroc gave 20 percent of his charitable donations to Satan’s Church in Los Angeles. Initially dismissing it as an amusing rumor, the company saw customers in the Bible Belt of the country take it seriously and refuse to patronize their restaurants. One franchisee in Oklahoma experienced a 20 percent drop in profits. Executives had to travel to clergymen in states like Ohio and Indiana to play Kroc’s recent interviews to prove he had never said such a thing. Though the company hired a full-time employee to investigate the source of the rumor—some speculated it was a rival restaurant chain—it was never found.

10. A bigger McDonald's menu can lead to bigger problems.

While the company’s manual mandates a quick 90-second turnaround time for orders, a constantly revised menu has complicated things considerably. In 2003, corporate introduced the McWrap, a salad inside of a tortilla shell: the tortilla needed to be steamed and often wouldn’t fit inside of the driver-friendly packaging. When all-day breakfast was introduced in 2015, eggs and hash browns had to vie for space on the griddles and deep fryers. All of it, disgruntled franchisees claim, contributes to a slower order time.

11. San Francisco banned McDonald's Happy Meals.

Nelo Hotsuma via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In an effort to curb the frenzied pleas of children for a nutritionally bankrupt Happy Meal in order to score the free toy, San Francisco passed an ordinance in 2011 that prohibited the company from peddling the promotion within city limits. To get around the law, the company began charging 10 cents for the toy, skirting around the definition of "free."

12. McDonald's almost landed on an asteroid.

When NASA affiliate company Jet Propulsion Laboratory initiated some ambitious plans to land a spacecraft on an asteroid named Hamburga in the early 1990s, they attempted to partner with McDonald’s to sponsor the trip. The match made in the stars was not to be: the project went over budget, and Hamburga remains un-franchised.

13. It's illegal to open a McDonald's in Bermuda.

In an effort to keep their territory untouched by corporate expansion, Bermuda’s government adopted a Prohibited Restaurants Act in 1977 to keep chains off the island. A McDonald’s did manage to sneak in on a U.S. Naval base in 1985, but was unable to remain after the base closed in 1995.

14. The first expanded McDonald's location is now basically an underwater museum.

The first McDonald's Store Museum found by McDonald's Corporation founder, Ray Kroc, opened on April 15, 1955.
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When businessman Ray Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers, he opened his first location in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955. After 29 years, the building was demolished—but the company rebuilt it using the original blueprints to turn it into a monument of their history. Repeat area floods have kept tourists away, though: the interior closed in 2008, leaving McDonald’s fans to take pictures of the outside.

The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired

H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images

While you’re battling your cousins for the best napping spot after Thanksgiving dinner, feel free to use this as a diversion tactic: It’s a myth that eating turkey makes you tired.

It’s true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer tells WebMD that the best way to boost serotonin is to eat a small, all-carbohydrate snack a little while after you’ve eaten something that contains tryptophan, and the carbs will help ferry the tryptophan from your bloodstream to your brain.

But Thanksgiving isn’t exactly about eating small, well-timed snacks. It’s more about heaps of potatoes, mountains of stuffing, and generous globs of gravy—and that, along with alcohol, is more likely the reason you collapse into a spectacular food coma after your meal. Overeating (especially of foods high in fat) means your body has to work extra hard to digest everything. To get the job done, it redirects blood to the digestive system, leaving little energy for anything else. And since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it also slows down your brain and other organs.

In short, you can still hold turkey responsible for your Thanksgiving exhaustion, but you should make sure it knows it can share the blame with the homestyle mac and cheese, spiked apple cider, and second piece of pumpkin pie.

[h/t WebMD]

How Mammoth Poop Gave Us Pumpkin Pie

MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images
MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images

When it’s time to express gratitude for the many privileges bestowed upon your family this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be grateful for mammoth poop. The excrement of this long-extinct species is a big reason why holiday desserts taste so good.

Why? Because, as Smithsonian Insider reports, tens of thousands of years ago, mammoths, elephants, and mastodons had an affinity for wild gourds, the ancestors of squashes and pumpkin. In a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Smithsonian researcher and colleagues found that wild gourds—which were much smaller than our modern-day butternuts—carried a bitter-tasting toxin in their flesh that acted as a deterrent to some animals. While small rodents would avoid eating the gourds, the huge mammals would not. Their taste buds wouldn't pick up the bitter flavor and the toxin had no effect on them. Mammoths would eat the gourds and pass the indigestible seeds out in their feces. The seeds would then be plopped into whatever habitat range the mammoth was roaming in, complete with fertilizer.

When the mammoths went extinct as recently as 4000 years ago, the gourds faced the same fate—until humans began to domesticate the plants, allowing for the rise of pumpkins. But had it not been for the dispersal of the seeds via mammoth crap, the gourd might not have survived long enough to arrive at our dinner tables.

So as you dig into your pumpkin pie this year, be sure to think of the heaping piles of dung that made the delicious treat possible.