7 Oldest McDonald’s in America

McDonald’s is one of the biggest and most successful fast food franchises in the world. Created by brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald and franchised by Ray Kroc, this food chain has grown to serving 68 million customers across over 120 countries daily.

But like all mega-successful brands, McDonald’s had humble beginnings. Here’s a list of the first and earliest McDonald’s outlets!

7. Kroc’s Second McDonald’s Outlet

Years of Operation: 1956-Unknown
Still active?: No
Location: Des Plaines, Illinois

Kroc’s First McDonald’s Outletimage credit: chicagoist

While continuing to search for more franchisees for his McDonald’s chain, Ray Kroc discovered that the McDonald brothers had given a license to their franchise in Cook County, Illinois to the Frejlach Ice Cream Company without telling him. This move greatly angered Kroc and made his desire to build his fast food chain alone.

Kroc bought those rights off of the ice cream company for five times the initial value – $25,000 – and continued building his brand, cutting ties with the brothers in the process.

Afterward, Kroc completely took over the company He even tried to erase Richard and Maurice McDonald from the company’s official history, as they are barely mentioned in official sources today. 

By 1959, Kroc had opened 102 McDonald’s restaurants. And that, as they say, is history. Today, many people credit Kroc with turning McDonald’s into a global powerhouse. 

6. Kroc’s First McDonald’s Outlet

Years of Operation: 1955-Present
Still active?: Yes
Location: Des Plaines, Illinois

Kroc’s First McDonald’s Outletimage credit: Chicagoist

The McDonald brothers had been using Ray Kroc’s Multimixer milkshake machines, which he sold for the Price Castle brand, in their San Bernardino outlet. News travelled to Kroc, and he was immediately interested. He and his friend Charles Lewis visited the outlet, and Lewis made a number of suggestions that would potentially improve the recipe for the McDonald’s burgers.

Kroc felt that the McDonald brothers’ ideas could create huge success and wanted to franchise the restaurant around the whole country. The brothers were skeptical, but Kroc said he would take on the majority of the responsibility of that task and offered them 0.5% of the gross sales. 

Kroc opened his first McDonald’s in 1955 in North Lee Street, Des Plaines.

In 1990, the McDonald’s Corporation acquired this particular outlet and rehabilitated it, returning it to its original condition but with more modern infrastructure, and set up a gift shop and museum next to it.

5. Oldest Surviving McDonald’s in USA and the World

Years of Operation: 1953-Present
Still active?: Yes
State: Downey, California

image credit:Lucas Peterson

The second McDonald’s franchisee was Roger Williams — Neil Fox’s (the first-ever franchisee) brother-in-law — and his friend Burdette “Bud” Landon. The McDonald’s was opened in Lakewood Boulevard, Downey, on the 18th of August 1953.

Today, this very same restaurant is still operational and is officially the world’s oldest surviving McDonald’s. Over the years, the restaurant has become a tourist attraction and has its own museum and gift shop. 

At the time of its creation and for several decades after, this McDonald’s was quite different from other existing McDonald’s outlets. It was the only McDonald’s that was franchised with the McDonald brothers and not with Ray Kroc.

However, this joint almost didn’t survive. In the mid-1970’s, a new corporate McDonald’s opened nearby, and the menu difference caused this older outlet to have a bad dip in sales. In 1990, it was finally taken under Kroc’s McDonald’s Corporation but then was damaged by the Northridge earthquake in 1994.

Due to all this, the corporation wanted to demolish it, but the outlet was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservations’ 11 Most Endangered Historic Places that very year. Because of its new designation, the historic McDonald’s was saved. 

4.The Birth of the Golden Arches

Years of Operation: 1953-Unknown
Still active? :No
Location: Phoenix, Arizona

image credit:Wikipedia

The McDonald brothers continued to improve their restaurant and decided to construct a brand new building that would be more appealing to the eye. After an extensive search for the right architect, the McDonald brothers hired Stanley Clark Meston from Fontana, California. 

Maurice and Richard chose Meston because he agreed with their desire for the new restaurant to have arches. Meston refined their arches idea and came up with the now-iconic Golden Arches. He also came up with the brand’s signature yellow, red, and white color scheme. 

Also at this time, the McDonald brothers wanted to increase customer turnover and made changes to the restaurant’s layout. The McDonald brothers spaced out seating to prevent customers from staying too long.

They also changed the design of the drink containers to cone-shaped cups, which forced customers to hold their drinks while eating. This was the birth of many fast food standards still used today. 

In addition to these new design changes, the McDonald brothers wanted to grow the business through franchising. Their first franchisee was Neil Fox, who worked as a distributor for General Petroleum Corporation.

Fox’s first stand opened in May 1953 and was officially the first McDonald’s fast food outlet and the first to have its famous golden arches.

3. The First McDonald’s

Years of Operation: 1948-Unknown
Still active?: No
Location: San Bernadino, California

The_First_McDonald’simage credit:BusinessInsider

When the McDonald brothers reopened their restaurant in December 1948, they simplified their menu to  hamburgers, cheeseburgers, apple pie, potato chips, soft drinks, and coffee.

A year later, the brothers changed the menu again. They removed the chips and pie and replaced them with French fries and milkshakes. They also made alterations to their operating system by removing carhops and setting up a self-service system – one that would continue to be used till this day.

Today, the first official McDonald’s restaurant is open to the public as a museum. Guided tours are available and restaurant museum is filled with McDonald’s memorabilia. 

2. McDonald’s Bar-B-Que

Years of Operation: 1940-1948
Still active?: No
Location: San Bernadino, California

McDonald’s Bar-B-Que image credit:Amusingplanet

About 40 miles to the east of The Airdrome’s original location, the McDonald brothers opened up a restaurant in the style of a carhop drive-in on West 14th and 1398 North E Streets in San Bernardino. The restaurant focused on serving barbecue food and had over 40 barbequed items on its menu. 

McDonald’s Bar-B-Que was successful, but a few years into their operations, the McDonald brothers realized that a majority of the profit came from the sale of hamburgers. The brothers decided to streamline the business and only offer a small number of items.

Additionally, to make their process more efficient, the McDonald brothers set up their kitchen like an assembly line. This process is now standard in all fast food restaurants. 

1. The Airdrome

Years of Operation: 1937-1940
Still active?: No
Location: Monrovia, California

The Airdromeimage credit:amusingplanet

The Airdrome was the McDonald family’s first venture into the food and restaurant industry and became the foundation for one of the largest fast food chains in the world. Even though it wasn’t called McDonald’s, technically, the Airdrome is the oldest McDonald’s in America.

The Airdrome was opened by Patrick McDonald — Richard and Maurice McDonald’s father — as a simple food stand situated on Huntington Drive, Monrovia, California. 

At first, The Airdrome only served hot dogs, but gradually expanded its menu to include hamburgers and orange juice. The stall did well, but eventually, the McDonald brothers decided to close the restaurant down. The McDonald brothers wanted to change up their menu and branding in 1940.


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