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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Today is McDonald's 60th Anniversary, Kinda

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 2:01 PM

click to enlarge At the oldest extant McDonalds, in Downey, California. - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • At the oldest extant McDonalds, in Downey, California.

Although the McDonald brothers and later Ray Kroc had been serving hamburgers for years already, today is the 60th anniversary of McDonald’s as a franchised corporation. On April 15, 1955, a Mickey D’s opened up a Googie gem in Des Plaines, Illinois, selling cheeseburgers for 19 cents, milk shakes for 20 cents, and fries, coffee, and root beer for a dime each.

While the Golden Arches were already there, McDonald’s in 1955 was still using its original, pre-Ronald McDonald mascot, Speedee. (That Chicagoland location, not far from Hamburger University in Kroc’s hometown of Oak Brook, has since become the McDonald’s #1 Store Museum, which is not to be confused with the Big Mac Museum in Pennsylvania. While the McDonald Brothers’ original San Bernardino restaurant was eventually demolished, the Downey, California location remains the oldest existing store.)

click to enlarge SHOPPICKERS.COM
Sixty years on, McDonald’s is still one of the biggest corporations on Earth. It’s Coke’s biggest customer, employs 1.8 million people and serves a customer base of 70 million people (the equivalent of 1 percent of all humans), every single day. One in eight U.S. workers has gotten a paycheck from McDonald’s at some point, and the company’s planned expansion into China involves opening an average of three new stores a day through 2017.

Beyond pink slime, crudely gendered Happy Meal toys, poorly chosen locations inside of hospitals, the fact that it's just a big real estate company at heart, and all the rest of the controversies that McDonald’s has stepped into over the years, the fact that they habitually under-pay their workforce continues to dog them. They’ve been the number one target of the Fight for $15 campaign to boost the minimum wage, and Salon published an account today of a long-time employee outside of Atlanta, who on top of the low wages, can never get enough hours to make ends meet. However, the decision to raise pay for the 10 percent of employees who work at a store owned by the company itself has enraged many franchisees.

Although McDonald’s annual revenue exceeds the GDP of EU member state Cyprus, there are signs that this system is beginning to implode, and not from the imbalance of paying Northern European workers far better than North American workers. By its own account, 2014 was a “challenging year” with “negative guest traffic in all major segments” and revenues tumbling seven percent from 2013. Ouch.

There are currently 17 McDonald’s in San Francisco, with the one on Haight Street by Golden Gate Park and the one on Ocean Avenue in Ingleside tied with two-star Yelp rankings. The recently shuttered Van Ness location, which attracted a fair amount of graffiti, is now slated for mixed-use redevelopment. A perfect distillation of San Francisco in microcosm, the former fast food restaurant will be home to market-rate housing, retail, and a luxury hotel.
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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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