World’s First McDonald Restaurant

Sep 6, 2012 3 comments

The world's largest chain of fast food restaurants that serve around 68 million customers each day in 119 countries began operation in 1940 as a barbecue restaurant run by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald at 1398 North E Street at West 14th Street in San Bernardino, California. The original restaurant was named "McDonald's Famous Barbeque" and served over forty barbequed items.

In October 1948, after the McDonald brothers realized that most of their profits came from selling hamburgers, they closed down their successful carhop drive-in to establish a streamlined system with a simple menu of just hamburgers, potato chips, and orange juice. The following year, French fries and Coca-Cola were added to the menu. This simplified menu and food preparation using assembly line principles allowed them to sell hamburgers for 15 cents, or about half as much as at a sit-down restaurant.


McDonald Brother's store in San Bernadino, California

In 1953, the McDonald brothers began to franchise their successful restaurant, starting in Phoenix, Arizona and Downey, California; the latter is today the oldest surviving McDonald's restaurant. In 1954, the McDonald brothers licensed Ray Kroc, a seller of Multimixer milkshake machines, to setup McDonald restaurants throughout the country. Subsequently a new restaurant was opened in  Des Plaines, Illinois, near Chicago, on April 15, 1955, the same day that McDonald became a corporation. The company usually refers to this as The Original McDonald's as it marked the beginning of the phenomenal growth of the most popular fast food franchise in history.

Both McDonalds at San Bernardino, California and Des Plaines, Illinois, now houses replica museum with exhibits such as the original fry vats, milkshake Multimixers, which Kroc had sold when he first encountered the San Bernardino McDonald's restaurant, soda barrels and grills, attended to by a crew of male mannequins in 1950s uniforms. Visitors can walk in through the back, or peek through the order windows in front. There is also a collection of vintage ads, photos and a video about McDonald's history.



Photo from the 1950's. Customers at a McDonald's restaurant


Photo from 1955, of Ray Kroc's first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois


Exterior shot of the first store in Des Plaines, Illinois


Original crew members in front of first store in Des Plaines, Illinois.


Exterior view of the first McDonald's fast food restaurant with its neon arches illuminated at night, Des Plaines, Illinois. Circa 1955


The site of the first McDonald's restaurant, San Bernardino, California. Only part of the sign remains from the original structure


McDonald Museum at Des Plaines, Illinois


The first McDonald's Drive-Thru established in Sierra Vista, AZ


Fred Turner and Ray Kroc looking at blueprints of future McDonald's restaurant



The oldest operating McDonald's on Lakewood and Florence in Downey, California, was the chain's third restaurant and the second to be built with the Golden Arches. The restaurant is almost unchanged in appearance since it opened in 1953.


McDonald Museum at Des Plaines, Illinois


Inside McDonald Museum at Des Plaines, Illinois


McDonald's ad from the Grand Opening

Sources: Wikipedia, AboutMcDonalds


  1. Place isn't open very often, few days per week, should be open Friday Saturday Sunday Monday, charge $1 to walk around

  2. 1952 lunch at McDonalds in San Bernardino cost less than a dollar.

  3. Everything less than 30 cents. I wish it still cost that much today than having a $2 burger!


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