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In 77 years McDonald’s grew from one restaurant to fast food giant

Sophie Roberts, May 16, 2017 5:50PM News Corp Australia

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IT’S hard to believe it now, but McDonald’s was once a single, cheap burger outlet that two brothers started in California.

That was 77 years ago — now McDonald’s has grown into a fast food giant that serves around 68 million customers every day.

McDonald brothers Dick and Mac proudly opened up the first McDonald’s restaurant in 1940 in California’s San Bernardino in the US, where customers could pick up a hamburger for just 15 cents.

By comparison, 15 cents in 1940 converts to around $3.50 in today’s value.

Before the Golden Arches became world-renowned, the original menu was extremely simple.

For food, hungry punters* could get their hands on hamburgers, cheeseburgers and French fries.

Customers queue at the original McDonald's in San Bernardino, California. Picture: AP media_cameraCustomers queue at the original McDonald’s in San Bernardino, California. Picture: AP

The drink options were equally simple, as the first McDonald’s store offered up choices of coffee, milk, cola, root beer, orange or malt shakes. Root beer is a soft drink variety and malt shakes are a type of milk shake.

By limiting the number of choices available, the kitchen could get orders to customers quicker than traditional restaurants.

The McDonald’s assembly line was soon dubbed* the Speedee Service System, which paved the way for modern-day fast food service culture.

Three years after opening the first store, the menu expanded slightly. Ice cream sodas or spiders, sundaes and frosted root beer (a semi-frozen version of the soft drink) were rolled out.

Businessman Ray Kroc outside a McDonald’s. Picture: supplied media_cameraBusinessman Ray Kroc outside a McDonald’s. Picture: supplied

Some unusual menu items included the “Aristocratic* Hamburgers�� and “Peanut Butter and Jelly with French Fries”.

Two Mexican-inspired dishes were also on offer: straight Chilli and Tamales* and Chilli with French Fries. Barbecue became a fast food favourite, with the 1943 menu boasting*: “We barbecue all meats in our own barbecue pit”.

The future of McDonald’s changed forever when business mogul* Ray Kroc visited the popular diner* in 1955. Kroc was so struck by the speedy service and simple food menu he made plans to turn the outlet into a chain.

The shrewd* businessman promised to give the McDonald brothers a one per cent cut of all earnings. After shaking hands with his business partners, he went back on his word and the pair were forced to take their name off the original restaurant.

McDonald’s drive through window with a recent menu addition. Picture: Peter Clark media_cameraMcDonald’s drive through window with a recent menu addition. Picture: Peter Clark

Over the decades, McDonald’s has introduced and axed* dozens of different menu items to keep up with demand. Even though the original menu is humble in comparison to the extensive range of choice available today, the McDonald’s burger has endured the test of time.

Digital news organisation The Fiscal Times has estimated that the fast food chain sells more than 75 burgers every second.

*This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.

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punters: purchasing public

dubbed: named

aristocratic: noble and fancy

tamales: Mexican dish

mogul: business tycoon

diner: simple American restaurant, often beside large roads

shrewd: sharp

axed: cut



Activity 1. Happy 77th birthday to you!

After reading the article on how McDonald’s first came about, write a list of the original menu items in one column. In the other column write some of the things you know that are on the McDonald’s menu in 2017.

Original Menu items 1940 v Current day Menu items 2017

What are some of the original items you think they should bring back to the current menu?


Write a newspaper article reporting about the opening of the first McDonald’s restaurant back in 1940.

Time: Allow 20 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English

Activity 2. Giving back

McDonald’s receives a lot of negative press regarding their unhealthy food and marketing strategies towards children.

However they do support the community in a variety of ways.

The following website gives information on what McDonald’s do to give back to the community in Australia:

Using this information and any further research you do, write a list of the positives and a list of the negatives for the McDonald’s brand.



Would you like a McDonald’s in your town if you don’t already have one?

Write a list of pros and cons of having McDonald’s in your home town.

Time: Allow 45 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking, Health and Physical Education


(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation)


Write some phrases using alliteration to describe the various foods mentioned in the article about McDonalds. For example, super sweet strawberry spiders.

Extension: What’s on the menu?

Using the Aristocratic* Hamburgers and Peanut Butter and Jelly with French Fries for inspiration, create some of your own wacky menu items.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Big Write and VCOP







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