Richard James and Maurice James McDonald were American entrepreneurs who founded the McDonald's restaurant in San Bernardino, California, and inventors of the "Speedee Service System," now commonly known as "fast food."
Early life and family life
The McDonald brothers were born in poverty in Manchester, New Hampshire. They were born to Patrick J. McDonald and Margarete McDonald, a married couple of Irish immigrants who came to the United States as children. The McDonald brothers also had three sisters.
In 1937, the McDonald brothers opened a hot dog stand in Monrovia, California, inspired by a local hot dog stand that seemed to be the only profitable business in town, and which primarily served patrons at a local racetrack. However, the stand had few customers after racing season ended.
Maurice decided to open a bigger hot dog stand in San Bernardino, a large working-class town approximately 50 miles eastward, with a population of approximately 100,000 people. After several banks declined to lend them the money needed for this venture, Bank of America finally approved, and in 1940, with $5,000 in capital, they opened a drive-in restaurant on the corner of 1398 North E Street and West 14th Street
The new restaurant proved a success and the brothers were soon making $40,000 a year. Most customers were teenage or young adult males in their 20s who came there primarily to flirt with the carhop young women, or young working families looking for a cheap meal. The McDonald brothers decided that the latter were the ideal customer they wanted to attract.
After a couple years in business, the brothers began making plans to renovate their business model based on the lessons they had learned. One of these involved finding a more efficient way to service customers than the carhop young women, who they considered slow, unreliable workers who spent too much time flirting with customers to increase their tips. Another was that hamburgers accounted for a large proportion of total sales. The griddles were much easier to clean than grills and burgers were faster to assemble than sandwiches.
In 1948, the brothers fully redesigned and rebuilt their restaurant in San Bernardino to focus on hamburgers, milk shakes, and french fries. While this new "McDonald's," situated at the same address, was still premised on most customers arriving by car, its design was unique due to a combination of factors:
- Like the brothers' previous food stands, the design deliberately omitted an interior dining area.
- There was no waiting staff; orders were taken in person at the front counter, where the food was also delivered.
- The brothers designed the kitchen area themselves, integrating their acquired knowledge into an assembly line–style layout that maximized efficiency and output.
- The burgers were pre-cooked and kept warm.
The new restaurant was a success, and with the goal of making $1 million before they turned 50, the McDonald brothers began franchising their system in 1953, beginning with a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona, operated by Neil Fox. At first they only franchised the system, rather than the name of their restaurant. Later, the brothers started franchising the entire concept, with restaurants built to a standard design, created by Fontana, California, architect Stanley Clark Meston, and featuring Richard's suggestion of the paired Golden Arches, which formed an M when viewed from an angle.
In 1954, the McDonald brothers partnered with Ray Kroc. The franchiser took 1.9 percent of the gross sales, of which the McDonald brothers got 0.5 percent. The brothers wished to maintain only a small number of restaurants, which conflicted with Kroc's goals. Ray Kroc eventually bought them out in 1961.
On November 30, 1984, Richard McDonald, the first cook behind the grill of a McDonald's, was served the ceremonial 50 billionth McDonald's hamburger by Ed Rensi, then president of McDonald's USA, at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City.
Death and legacy
Maurice McDonald died from a heart attack in Riverside, California, on December 11, 1971, at the age of 69. He was buried at the Desert Memorial Park, in Cathedral City, California.
Richard McDonald died in a nursing home in Manchester, New Hampshire, on July 14, 1998, at the age of 89.He was buried nearby at the Mount Calvary Cemetery in his home city of Manchester. His wife Dorothy died January 10, 1999. She is buried at his side.
In the 2016 film The Founder—a biopic about Ray Kroc—Richard McDonald is played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch portrays Maurice McDonald.
The first McDonald's, according to the California Route 66 Association, is owned by Albert Okura and is a museum.
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