Richard and Maurice McDonald opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California.
The McDonald brothers had successfully run the ‘Airdrome’ hotdog stand in Arcadia, California, for three years before they began their first McDonald’s Bar-B-Que restaurant in San Bernardino. The restaurant had twenty-five items on the menu, and was typical of restaurants of its time where customers arrived by car and were served by waiting staff known as car hops.
In 1948 the brothers streamlined their entire restaurant experience when they temporarily closed the restaurant for remodelling. It reopened in October 1948 with a new design where customers ordered food directly at the counter. The brothers also reduced the number of items on the menu and introduced their Speedee Service System that adopted an assembly line approach to simplify food preparation.
Many of these design innovations had first been introduced by the White Castle hamburger chain in the 1920s, but the success of the McDonald brothers’ restaurant saw them seek opportunities to expand their business. In 1953 they began to offer franchise opportunities, firstly of the serving system and then of the entire brand including the name and the architectural design.
The aggressive expansion of the McDonald’s brand was overseen by Ray Kroc, originally a provider of milkshake machines, who persuaded the McDonald brothers to franchise the restaurants throughout the country. The brothers agreed, and received 0.5% of gross sales in franchised restaurants. Kroc completely bought the brothers out in 1961. He paid them $2.7 million for the business, and went on to create the global chain we know today.