1. McDonald’s first drive-thru opened in 1975 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. What inspired the then-revolutionary concept? The restaurant was located near a military base, and soldiers were not allowed to leave their cars while wearing fatigues.
2. The world’s largest Big Mac can be found in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, at the Big Mac Museum (which bills itself “the most tasteful museum in the world”). While the mega-Mac is inedible—it’s a 14-foot-tall statue—hungry visitors can eat the real thing at the on-premises McDonald’s restaurant.
3. McDonald’s is the world’s largest distributor of toys. It gives away around 1.5 billion toys each year with Happy Meals.
4. All those dimes and pennies do add up: In 2013, Ronald McDonald House Charities—the nonprofit organization that is McDonald’s charity of choice—raised around $450 million. It used those funds to help nearly 9 million children and their families worldwide. Today, RMHC has nearly 300 local chapters in 58 countries and regions.
5. McDonald’s holds its own version of American Idol. Called the Voice of McDonald’s, the competition shines the spotlight on the vocal talent of its 1.8 million employees. In its most recent contest, 58,000 McWorkers from 63 countries entered. Lucy Ospitia of Bucaramanga, Colombia, won the $25,000 grand prize. Rocky Rosabal from the Philippines won second prize ($17,500); third prize ($12,500) went to Ashlae Nelms from Illinois.
6. The average McDonald’s drive-thru transaction took roughly three minutes, or 189.49 seconds, according to one recent study; the fast-food leader was Wendy’s with a 133.63-second turnaround time.
7. The Golden Arches are said to be the most recognized symbol in the world, even ahead of the cross.
8. Founder Richard McDonald first sketched the Golden Arches as an architectural feature to attract customers in cars looking from the roadside, but it took five more years for the arches to be linked into an M (shown at right, at a present-day restaurant in Downey, California, the oldest one still in operation).
9. At its Paris Champs-Elysees restaurant, McDonald’s typically yellow Golden Arches are neon white to blend in with the lighting of of that location.
10. The McDonald’s in Sedona, Arizona, has the world’s only turquoise arches—the owners of that franchise were told that they needed to make the location more in keeping with the distinct desert environment. The blue was chosen to echo the sky, and the building is more orange and red to resemble the surrounding terrain.
11. While many international McDonald’s look the same as their American counterparts, their menus contain unique items that reflect local tastes. Some examples: nurnburger, or three bratwursts on a bun (Germany); creamy stars, or deep-fried star-shaped pieces of cheese (Italy); McFalafel and McKebab (Israel); McSpaghetti, or pasta served with Chicken McNuggets on the side (Philippines); McRice burger, or a burger in which rice patties are used instead of a bun (Singapore); quiche de quejo, or cheese quiche (Brazil); red bean pie (Hong Kong); McAloo Tikki burger, or a spiced-potato burger (India).
12. Samuel Jackson’s character came pretty close in Pulp Fiction: a Quarter Pounder in France is called a Royal Cheese, not a Royale with Cheese.
13. Since 1996, skiers have been able to schuss into the world’s only ski-thru McDonald’s in the Lindvallen resort area in Sweden.
14. Many people probably wish they could dine on McDonald’s on a flight instead of airline food; for now, they’ll have to settle for dining at a New Zealand McDonald’s, which includes an actual retired aircraft as part of the restaurant.
15. Nations that have placed a ban on McDonald’s include Bermuda, Montenegro, Kazahstan, and Macedonia.
16. In all the world, there is one floating McDonald’s. Known as the McBarge, it’s in Vancouver, Canada. It was built for and served food at the 1986 World’s Fair, but it is now abandoned. Perhaps it should open as a sail-thru?
17. The Queen of England owns approximately $11 billion of real estate in the United Kingdom; among her holdings is a McDonald’s near Buckingham Palace. So far, she has yet to dine there—but she may be more of a drive-thru type.
18. Golden wedding arches: McDonald’s in Hong Kong offers a variety of wedding packages. The deluxe package, which costs around $1,200, includes a two-hour rental of a decorated McDonald’s location, 50 invitations, McDonald’s gifts for 50 guests, a pair of McDonald’s balloon wedding rings, a bridal bouquet, apple pie display, and an emcee.
19. In the U.K., McDonald’s has launched a program to recycle its employees’ uniforms. Some of the material will be re-spun into fiber to make new uniforms; the rest will be shredded and used to stuff mattresses.
20. In another innovation, McDonald’s Hungary and the advertising agency DDB Budapest recently unveiled the BagTray: a paper bag that has a reinforced cardboard tray at its bottom. By ripping off a strip of the bag, you can detach a sturdy tray.
21. McDonald’s best-selling menu item is … French fries!
22. But it took nine years for fries to appear on the restaurant menu (they debuted in 1949); before that, only potato chips were available.
23. You don’t need a passport to try exotic McDonald’s offerings. In some parts of the America, McDonald’s restaurants sell their own specialty items. In the summer, you can get a McLobster roll at restaurants in New England. But Hawaii takes the prize: Choices include Saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup with fish cake, nori, char siu pork, and sliced scrambled eggs; a taro-root pie; and a breakfast platter with Spam or Portuguese sausage as the meat options.
24. A McDonald’s franchise owner in Monfort Heights, Ohio noticed that residents in his highly Catholic town did not eat hamburgers or cheeseburgers during Lent so he created a meat-free alternative, the Filet-o-Fish (left), which swam onto menus in 1962. Today, 23 percent of all Filet-o-Fish sales are thought to occur during Lent.
25. The fish in the filet was originally halibut; now it’s wild-caught Atlantic pollock.
26. The chain’s worst selling item may have been the Hula burger. Invented by Ray Kroc as a meatless alternative for Catholics on Lent, it consisted of a grilled piece of pineapple with a slice of cheese in a bun. It lasted a brief while in 1962.
27. McDonald’s McGriddle was invented by product developer Tom Ryan because he wanted a handheld breakfast item that was both sweet and savory. He is the Dr. Frankenstein of fast food. In an earlier job at Pizza Hut, he created stuffed-crust pizza and the Meat Lovers, Veggie Lovers, and Cheese Lovers pizzas. He is now the founder and chief concept officer at Smashburger.
28. Franchisee Herb Peterson created the Egg McMuffin, which became available in 1971, by modeling it off his breakfast of choice, eggs benedict.
29. Some discerning diners believe that the Coke served at McDonald’s tastes better than it does at other places. They may be onto something: Only at McDonald’s is the Coke syrup delivered in stainless steel tanks to preserve its freshness; elsewhere, it’s transported in plastic bags.
30. At a grand total of 1,880 calories, the 40-piece Chicken McNuggets are the highest calorie item on the regular menu. That’s more calories than many adults should consume in a single day.
31. The number of ingredients in Chicken McNuggets? 40, which is low compared to the ingredient list for the McRib, which has 70.
32. The McRib, which debuted in the chain’s restaurants in 1981, was invented in part because chicken farmers couldn’t keep up with the demand for McNuggets.
33. There are no ribs in McRib; it’s a patty made from pork shoulder meat.
34. The McRib was removed from the McDonald’s menu in 1985 due to its lack of popularity. But thanks to a loyal cult following, it came back in 1989 and was offered until 2005 in the chain’s restaurants in much of the world. From 2006 on, it’s been available for a few months every year. However, all along it has been a menu staple in one country: Germany.
35. According to Reddit users, you can get a Big Mac for half the price if you order a McDouble without mustard or ketchup and add shredded lettuce and special sauce. The only difference will be the lack of a third bun.
36. Those in the know say that McDonald’s has a secret menu. The most popular items include the McLeprechaun shake (a chocolate shake mixed with their seasonal Shamrock Shake), the McKinley Mac (a Big Mac made with quarter-pounder patties), and the Land, Air, and Sea burger (a McChicken patty, beef patty and Filet-o-Fish patty combined).
37. In an effort to provide a more customized experience, the “Create Your Taste” initiative allows diners to use tablet-like kiosks to pick different buns, cheeses, toppings, and sauces for their burger. It’s expected to roll out at 2,000 locations in the U.S. this year, or about one in seven McDonald’s in the U.S.
38. Customer Moshe Tamssot posted a YouTube video that showed him creating the biggest burger possible with a “Create Your Taste.” Although he was limited to two quarter-pound beef patties, he was able to add 10 times all the other ingredients. His sandwich was topped by 10 slices of bacon, 30 slices of cheese, and 10 servings of guacamole, tomato, pickles, lettuce, mushrooms, jalapeno peppers, raw onions, and grilled onions (not to mention a variety of sauces). The sandwich weighed 3.8 pounds and cost $24.89. We believe he is still digesting it.
39. In a one-off event in 2013, McDonald’s challenged celebrity chefs to deploy McDonald’s ingredients to create a “McGourmet” meal. Guests at the NYC dinner enjoyed kung pao chicken (made with Chicken McNuggets and sweet-and-sour sauce), a tortilla espanola (hash browns and eggs), slow-cooked beef with blueberry pomegranate sauce (the chain’s blueberry-pomegranate smoothie) and gnocchi (French fries!), and washed it all down with mojitos (mango pineapple smoothie).
40. While there are disputes about who invented the Ronald McDonald character, Willard Scott—who later became famous for being The Today Show weatherman— was the first to portray him in TV ads.
41. Scott was fired from being Ronald McDonald after he was deemed to be “too fat.”
42. In Japan, the character is known as Donald McDonald, due to the lack of a clear “R” sound in Japanese.
43. The original Ronald McDonald wore a yellow-and-red striped suit, which he often accessorized with wearing a tray bearing a hamburger, fries, and milkshake as a hat.
44. Ronald’s newest wardrobe, which debuted last summer, consists of yellow cargo pants and a vest and a red-and-white striped rugby shirt; on special occasions, he tops it all with a red blazer emblazoned with golden arches on the front pocket. His new look was created by theatrical costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, who won a Tony for Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast.
45. In 2005, a man from Manchester, New Hampshire, robbed a Wendy’s. His name? Ronald MacDonald.
46. Shaneka Torres of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is currently serving a three-to-seven-year prison sentence after she was convicted of shooting a bullet in a McDonald’s drive-thru window after she failed to receive bacon on her burger. She has also been banned from the restaurant for life.
47. In 2014, a McDonald’s customer sued the company for $1.5 million after claiming to suffer “undue mental anguish” after he received only one napkin with his order.
48. After starring in a McDonald’s-bashing ad for Burger King, the then-4-year-old actress Sarah Michelle Gellar was named in a lawsuit by the fast food giant—and was banned from McDonald’s.
49. While the best-known McDonald’s lawsuit in America is the one involving scalding coffee, the company is known in the U.K. for a different legal matter. In 1994, two members of the London Greenpeace group were sued by McDonald’s for distributing pamphlets that claimed the company was responsible for hunger in the Third World, deforestation, food poisoning, cruel treatment of animals, and paying low wages. The trial—dubbed the McLibel case—still stands as the longest in English history at 300 days, generating 20,000 pages of trial transcripts. The defendants were found guilty of making some libelous statements and ordered to pay a fine. But in 2005, they brought their case to the European Court, which declared that the case was in breach of the right to a fair trial and right to freedom of expression (mainly due to the unavailability of legal aid for the Greenpeace members).
50. Children’s television producers Sid and Marty Kroftt sued McDonald’s in 1973, saying that McDonaldland ripped off the “concept and feel” of their TV show H.R. Pufnstuf. McDonald’s was ordered to pay the brothers one million dollars.