A brief history of a leading innovator


McDonald’s was the first central international fast-food restaurant that had a first drive-thru window. Today, McDonald’s continues to lead the innovation in the fast-food industry.

McDonald’s history dates back to the late 1940s when Richard and Maurice McDonald opened a restaurant featuring 15 cent hamburgers.

Mcdonald logo

Their service system caught the eye of Ray Kroc, who distributed a milkshake machine. Kroc became a McDonald franchise agent, in 1955 and five years later, he bought the brothers out for $2.7 million. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The McDonald chain today has more than 38,000 locations in more than 100 countries, employing approximately 200,000 people worldwide.

The restaurant over the years has experimented with ways to speed up service and cut down on costs and order-taking errors.                                   In 2004, the McDonald’s franchisee in Missouri outsourced its drive-through order-taking to a call center in Colorado. According to the franchise owner, outsourced order taking let him take 30 additional cars every hour. The error rate in order taking dropped significantly as the process became more efficient and accurate. Other locations quickly followed suit, but that’s not all.

In 2006, McDonald’s was among the few fast-food chains that experimented with order-taking kiosks, putting them in place in 2015. Placed near the front of restaurants, the Kiosks allow customers to place their orders using a touchscreen machine. McDonald’s said it would add the technology at 1,000 locations every quarter for eight to nine quarters as of mid-2018.

Adding to Breakfast Menu

McDonald’s introduced a breakfast version of its popular McValue Menu at the beginning of 2010. The aim was to capture more morning business, or at least retain the flow of consumers already coming through its doors. And with it came:

  • Sausage Burrito: $1.29
  • Sausage McMuffin: $1.19
  • Sausage Biscuit: $1.19
  • Hash Browns: $1.09
  • Egg & Cheese Biscuit: $1.39
  • Cinnamon Melt: $1.69

Specialty Coffee

McDonald’s became more than just a fast-food restaurant with the introduction of specialty coffee. Today you can come during the evenings and sit in the McCafe, and sip a cappuccino, that was not part of the idea when McDonald’s launched its specialty coffee line in mid-2007. Despite the competition, McDonald’s continues to make considerable progress by attracting people who want a cheaper, great-tasting alternative.

The Bottom Line                                                                                                                                                                                                Innovation is not be rocket science, but it does take a particular type of practical genius. McDonald’s has managed to squeeze ever-higher sales and greater profits from the American fast food industry—one that many called oversaturated as far back as the 1980s.                                               The next time, think about how different your company’s performance would be with continued innovations.


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