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.


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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.
blanscape/iStock via Getty Images

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.

Wrap Yourself in the Sweet Smell of Bacon (or Coffee or Pine) With These Scented T-Shirts

adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images
adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images

At one point or another, you’ve probably used perfume, cologne, body spray, or another product meant to make you smell like a flower, food, or something else. But what if you could cut out the middleman and just purchase scented clothing?

Candy Couture California’s (CCC) answer to that is “You can!” The lifestyle brand offers a collection of graphic T-shirts featuring scents like bacon, coffee, pine tree, strawberry, and motor oil. If you have more traditional olfactory predilections, there are several options for you, too, including rose, lavender, and lemongrass. There’s even a signature Candy Couture California scent, which is an intoxicating blend of coconut, strawberry, and vanilla.

candy couture california bacon shirt
Candy Couture California

According to the website, CCC founder Sara Kissing came up with the idea in 2011 while working in the e-commerce fashion industry, and her personal experience with aromatherapy led her to investigate developing clothing that harnessed some of those same benefits. The T-shirts are created with scent-infused gel, which “gives off a delicate, mild smell—just enough to boost your mood.”

So you don’t have to worry about your bacon shirt making the whole office smell like a breakfast sandwich, but you yourself will definitely be able to enjoy its subtle, meaty aroma whenever you wear it. The shirts are also designed to match their scents—the chocolate shirt, for example, features chocolatey baked goods, while the coffee shirt displays steaming mugs of coffee.

candy couture california chocolate shirt
Candy Couture California

The fragrances don’t last forever, but they’ll stay strong through 15 to 20 washes before they start to fade. CCC recommends using unscented detergent so as not to conflict with the shirt’s aroma, and you can further prolong its life if you’re willing to wash it by hand.

Prices start at $79, and you can shop the full collection here.

The Fascinating History Behind Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food on Christmas

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iStock

For Jewish New Yorkers, scoring a seat at one of veteran restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld’s Chinese eateries on Christmas Day could be compared to a holiday miracle. “I think on that day we do more business than many restaurants do in three months,” Schoenfeld tells Mental Floss. “We serve all day long, we stay open all day long.”

Schoenfeld is the Jewish owner-operator of RedFarm, an Asian-fusion dim sum restaurant with two locations in New York (plus one in London), and Decoy, a West Village shrine to traditional Peking duck. While his expertise lies in Far Eastern cuisine, Schoenfeld grew up in Brooklyn and learned to cook from his Eastern European grandmother. And just like his customers, Schoenfeld and his family sometimes craved Chinese food on Christmas, eschewing homemade fare for heaping plates of chow mein and egg foo yung. The future restaurateur's grandmother kept a kosher kitchen, but outside the home all dietary laws flew out the window with the single spin of a Lazy Susan. Suddenly, egg rolls with pork were fair game, transfigured into permissible delicacies through hunger and willful ignorance.

As Gentiles feast on turkey and roast beef during the Yuletide season, why do many Jews opt for chop suey? For starters, it's convenient: Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But as historians and culinary experts tell Mental Floss, other ingredients play a part in this delicious story.

Jews developed their love for all things steamed, stir-fried, and soy-sauced after leaving the Old Country. Between the mid-1800s and the 1930s, waves of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Germany, and Greece began settling in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gritty, inexpensive neighborhood teeming with tenements, docks, and factories—and filled with synagogues and kosher butcher shops. “You started here, and then moved on," Sarah Lohman, author of Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, says.

While Jewish immigrants found community on the Lower East Side, "there was a lot of discrimination against Jews at the turn of the century,” Lohman adds. "They were often criticized not only for not dressing like Americans and not speaking the language, but also for not converting to an 'American' religion."

Right next door to the burgeoning Jewish community on the Lower East Side was the city's nascent Chinatown. Many Chinese immigrants had initially come to the U.S. to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. After its completion in 1869, these laborers faced violence and discrimination in the western states. They came to New York City seeking new business opportunities, and some opened restaurants.

By and large, Chinese restaurateurs didn’t discriminate against Jewish customers. Joshua Eli Plaut writes in his book A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to be Jewish that the Chinese, as non-Christians, didn't perceive any difference between Anglo-Saxon New Yorkers and Jewish immigrants; they accepted all non-Chinese customers with open arms.

Jewish customers embraced Chinese food in return. The restaurants were conveniently located and inexpensive, yet were also urbane in their eyes. Jews saw dining out as an American custom that they wanted to try, largely because they sought upward mobility among other Americans. According to Yong Chen, a history professor and author of Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, "[Diners] were attracted to Chinese food because, in their mind, it represented American cosmopolitanism and middle class status." And they weren't deterred by the fact that food in Chinese restaurants wasn't kosher. But they could easily pretend it was.

Dairy wasn’t a big part of Chinese meals, so Jewish diners didn’t have to worry about mixing meat and milk (a no-no in kosher diets). And non-kosher ingredients like pork or seafood were often finely chopped, drowned in sauces, or mixed with other ingredients, like rice. These elements were well disguised enough that they could pass for more permissible forms of meat. “You could kind of willfully ignore that there might be pork in there," Lohman says. "It’s like a vegetarian eating a soup that has chicken stock. If you’re a little flexible about your Judaism, you would just ‘not notice’ the pork in your fried rice.”

Chinese food was exotic and new, filled with surprising flavors, ingredients, and textures [PDF]. But for some Eastern European Jews, it also had familiar elements. Both Eastern European and Chinese cuisines shared an affinity for sweet and sour flavors and egg-based dishes. "[Chinese restaurants] had these pancakes, which were like blintzes,” says Joan Nathan, author of King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, and the wontons resembled kreplach (both are meat-filled soup dumplings).

The fact that the Chinese and Jews were America’s two largest non-Christian immigrant populations brought them together, Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, tells Mental Floss. Unlike, say, Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants were open on Sundays and on Christian holidays. They also lacked religious imagery, which may have made them appear more welcoming for Jews.

Combined, these factors caused the number of Chinese restaurants in urban East Coast cities to skyrocket during the early 20th century. Jews soon accounted for 60 percent of the white clientele in New York City's and Philadelphia’s Chinese restaurants, Chen writes, and Chinese restaurants would often go out of their way to cater to these clients. The eateries delivered their food to Jewish neighborhoods and to individual customers.

Yet an unwavering affection for Chinese food wasn't shared by all Jews. In an example cited by Chen and Lee, a reporter for Der Tog (The Day), a Yiddish daily newspaper in New York City, noted in 1928 that Jewish diners were in danger of drowning their culinary roots in soy sauce. To take back their taste buds, Jewish-Americans should hoist protest signs reading “Down with chop suey! Long live gefilte fish!” the journalist joked.

But Jewish cookbooks had already begun including Americanized dishes like chop suey and egg foo yung, which Chinese chefs had specially created to appeal to homegrown appetites. And as Lower East Side Jews moved to different neighborhoods, boroughs, and suburbs, Chinese restaurants followed them.

By the mid-20th century, Nathan says, Chinese restaurants had become de facto social clubs in Jewish communities. Familiar faces were always present, children were always welcome, and eating with your hands wasn’t just encouraged—it was required. Everyone left filled with food and gossip, whether it was Christmas or an ordinary Sunday evening.

Thanks to immigration patterns, nostalgia, and convenient hours of operation, this culinary custom has stuck around. “Jewish guests want to go out and eat Chinese food on Christmas,” Schoenfeld, the Manhattan restaurateur, says. “It’s become a tradition, and it’s extraordinary how it’s really grown.”

This story originally ran in 2017.

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