They serve 68 million customers daily in 119 countries across 35,000 outlets; the famous golden arches of McDonalds are instantaneously recognisable worldwide, their restaurants even stretching as far as Higashiomi, Japan and Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai. But the now global powerhouse started life as a modest hamburger restaurant in San Bernardino, California, when two brothers, Mac and Dick McDonald came together to create a small efficient self-service restaurant in 1940. By 1954, Multimix milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc heard McDonald’s were using some of his machines and was interested enough in this new ‘self-service’ that he paid them a visit looking to investigate and what he found, he liked.
Kroc’s first McDonald’s restaurant opened (as a franchise) on April 15, 1955, at 400 North Lee Avenue in Des Plaines, Illinois and amazingly, you can pick up a McDonalds from there today. The Des Plaines restaurant was the start of the future CEO’s involvement with what would turn out to be one of the world’s biggest companies, and laid the foundation for the modern ‘fast food’ phenomenon. Sadly, the restaurant isn’t the original but a replica built with the exact golden arches towering above glass and metal frame. However, that does nothing to dampen the authentic experience and the feeling that something BIG happened here.
The bottom floor exhibits original fryers, Kroc’s own Multimixers, coke machines, and grills, attended to by a crew of mannequins in the uniforms of the time. In true McDonald’s fashion, you can glance through the order windows in and pretend to be a high school sweetheart, hoping that milkshake will be the ticket to Lover’s lane. Much like the Guinness factory at St. James’s Gate, Dublin, there’s a museum section displaying vintage ads and a video to walk you through the iconic and quite incredible history of this rags to riches global giant.
Should you find yourself in Chicago with a bit of time to kill or a few sights to see, it proves to be a great stop off for lovers of all things American and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the occasional guilty treat?