14 Golden Facts About McDonald's

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Founded as a modest barbeque shop by brothers Richard and Maurice “Mac” McDonald in 1940, McDonald’s has grown to become synonymous with fast-service food (and car floors littered with paper wrappers). Pioneering preparation techniques have facilitated unimaginable numbers: the company stopped counting customers when they reached 100 billion back in 1994. Have a look at some things you may not know about the Golden Arches

1. McDonald's used to serve peanut butter sandwiches.

Richard and Mac McDonald opened their first location in San Bernardino, California in 1940 using a menu that would seem slightly puzzling today. Though barbecued meat was their specialty, the brothers also served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chili with baked beans, and slices of pie. After noticing most of their sales came from hamburgers, the McDonalds closed for three months in 1948 to retool their menu. They restricted themselves to just nine items, including burgers, drinks, and potato chips. (The pie stayed.)

2. The original McDonald's mascot was dropped because of indigestion.

To mark their 1948 facelift, McDonald’s introduced an official company mascot: Speedee, a burger-faced chef with a bow tie that looked like he was in a perpetual rush. The brothers noted that his round head would make a good base for a lollipop, and decided to hand out Speedee-shaped treats to orphanages and children’s hospitals as a charitable form of advertising. Unfortunately, Speedee seemed a little too similar to Alka-Seltzer mascot Speedy, patron saint of upset stomachs. To avoid confusion, Speedee was retired in 1962.

3. The original Ronald McDonald was fired for being too fat.


PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock via Getty Images

After sending Speedee away, McDonald’s latched on to the concept of a spokes-clown. Future Today show weatherman Willard Scott was hired in 1963 after a stint as TV’s Bozo the Clown. By 1966, however, the company had plans to hire duplicate Ronalds to make appearances around the country: Fearing they would be unable to find heavyset actors to match Scott’s stocky build, they let him go. (Today, a full-time svelte Ronald can make roughly $40,000 a year, and is forbidden from disclosing his identity in public.)

4. McDonald's peddles more toys than anyone.

It’s reasonable to think massive chain retailers like Walmart or Target have the toy industry on lockdown, but thanks to their promotional habits, it turns out McDonald’s hands over more toys than any other business on the planet. More than 20 percent of the franchise’s sales come from Happy Meals, which feature a regular rotation of tiny trinkets. In 2013, the company was also poised to become the UK’s largest children’s book distributor when it substituted books for plastic prizes in the meals.

5. There may be a reason Coke tastes better at McDonald's.

Soda snobs have observed that the fountain drinks at McDonald’s locations seem to taste better than anywhere else. The company speculates that could be due to the fact they adhere to Coke’s strict guidelines for serving: the water and syrup mix are pre-chilled before being added to dispensers, and their straws are a little wider than usual so “all that Coke taste can hit your taste buds.”

6. The McDonald's McD.L.T. was a PR nightmare.

Of the company’s many menu gaffes—the McPizza, McSpaghetti, and McHot Dog—the McD.L.T. stands as their greatest cautionary tale. A hamburger that was packaged in a dual-clamshell Styrofoam container to keep the “cool” ingredients (lettuce and tomato) separate from the warm patty, it was roundly criticized for being extremely wasteful and harsh on the environment. It was introduced in the mid-1980s and discontinued in 1990.

7. A change in McDonald's straws once led to problems catching fish.

In a move that would have unforeseen, mackerel-related consequences, McDonald’s shifted their straw design in 1984 from a red-and-yellow color scheme to brown-and-yellow. The problem? Fishermen along the Gulf of Mexico had successfully used the original version to lure Spanish mackerel: Three lures could be made from a single sipper, and caught five times as many fish as any other lure. The new straws failed to attract any catches; McDonald’s dryly advised the distressed fishermen try Big Macs instead.

8. One McDonald's franchisee wanted to serve booze.


iStock

In October 1983, a Sierra, California resort McDonald’s owner applied for a local liquor license and inquired about being granted an exception to the company’s no-alcohol policy. His restaurant, located in the adult-heavy tourist community of Mammoth, would have become the first in the United States to serve beer and wine. (Some European Arches were more liberal.) Just a day after the requests were made public, however, the owner withdrew his plans.

9. A rumor about a satanic cult cut into McDonald's profits.

Amid the hysteria over heavy metal and Satanic cults in the 1970s, McDonald’s found themselves having to defend the company against allegations that franchise founder Ray Kroc gave 20 percent of his charitable donations to Satan’s Church in Los Angeles. Initially dismissing it as an amusing rumor, the company saw customers in the Bible Belt of the country take it seriously and refuse to patronize their restaurants. One franchisee in Oklahoma experienced a 20 percent drop in profits. Executives had to travel to clergymen in states like Ohio and Indiana to play Kroc’s recent interviews to prove he had never said such a thing. Though the company hired a full-time employee to investigate the source of the rumor—some speculated it was a rival restaurant chain—it was never found.

10. A bigger McDonald's menu can lead to bigger problems.

While the company’s manual mandates a quick 90-second turnaround time for orders, a constantly revised menu has complicated things considerably. In 2003, corporate introduced the McWrap, a salad inside of a tortilla shell: the tortilla needed to be steamed and often wouldn’t fit inside of the driver-friendly packaging. When all-day breakfast was introduced in 2015, eggs and hash browns had to vie for space on the griddles and deep fryers. All of it, disgruntled franchisees claim, contributes to a slower order time.

11. San Francisco banned McDonald's Happy Meals.


Nelo Hotsuma via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In an effort to curb the frenzied pleas of children for a nutritionally bankrupt Happy Meal in order to score the free toy, San Francisco passed an ordinance in 2011 that prohibited the company from peddling the promotion within city limits. To get around the law, the company began charging 10 cents for the toy, skirting around the definition of "free."

12. McDonald's almost landed on an asteroid.

When NASA affiliate company Jet Propulsion Laboratory initiated some ambitious plans to land a spacecraft on an asteroid named Hamburga in the early 1990s, they attempted to partner with McDonald’s to sponsor the trip. The match made in the stars was not to be: the project went over budget, and Hamburga remains un-franchised.

13. It's illegal to open a McDonald's in Bermuda.

In an effort to keep their territory untouched by corporate expansion, Bermuda’s government adopted a Prohibited Restaurants Act in 1977 to keep chains off the island. A McDonald’s did manage to sneak in on a U.S. Naval base in 1985, but was unable to remain after the base closed in 1995.

14. The first expanded McDonald's location is now basically an underwater museum.

The first McDonald's Store Museum found by McDonald's Corporation founder, Ray Kroc, opened on April 15, 1955.
blanscape/iStock via Getty Images

When businessman Ray Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers, he opened his first location in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955. After 29 years, the building was demolished—but the company rebuilt it using the original blueprints to turn it into a monument of their history. Repeat area floods have kept tourists away, though: the interior closed in 2008, leaving McDonald’s fans to take pictures of the outside.

15 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of The Great British Baking Show

Netflix
Netflix

by Sarah Dobbs

If you’re an American fan of The Great British Bake Off you probably know it better as The Great British Baking Show (though its most devoted fans simply call it GBBO, which saves a lot of time). The show's tenth season recently kicked off on England’s Channel 4, and is streaming for American audiences via Netflix (though only one episode is being rolled out per week).

A bona fide global sensation, the baking competition has the power to cause otherwise rational human beings to immediately run to their nearest supermarket in search of obscure ingredients like psyllium or Amarula cream liqueur. It’s a charming, retro, warming hug of a TV show. But how much do you know about what goes on behind the scenes? Without destroying any of your illusions, here are some secrets about how the producers whip up one of the world's most beloved cooking shows.

1. The reason why it has two different names is simple.

A scene from The Great British Bake Off
Netflix

If you’ve ever wondered why the series is called The Great British Bake Off in England and The Great British Baking Show in America, the answer is simple: Pillsbury. The Pillsbury Bake Off, which kicked off in 1949, is probably America’s most famous baking contest. And the company didn’t want there to be any confusion among viewers, hence The Great British Baking Show.

2. Each oven has to be tested every day.

It’s difficult enough to make a cake that Paul Hollywood won’t declare either under- or over-baked without having to worry about whether your oven is working properly. So for every day of filming, every oven has to be tested. And because this is a baking show, they’re tested with cakes. Yes, every day every oven has a Victoria sponge cake cooked in it, to make sure everything’s working exactly as it should be.

3. Every time someone opens an oven door, there's a camera watching them.

To make sure they catch all the drama, GBBO producers insist that every time a bake is put into or taken out of an oven, the moment must be caught on camera. So whenever a baker wants to put their goodies into an oven, or check if they’re ready to come out, they need to grab someone to make sure the moment gets captured on film. (Which must be a hassle for the first couple of weeks, when there are more than 10 bakers all trying their best to produce a perfect bake at once.)

4. The contestants have to wear the same clothes all weekend.

It’s a minor thing, but have you ever noticed that the bakers wear the same clothes for an entire episode, even though it’s shot over two days? For continuity purposes, the contestants are asked to wear the same outfits for the entire weekend. If you’re the kind of baker who ends up with flour all over your shirt whenever you bake up a loaf of bread, the second day of filming could be a bit of a nightmare.

"Luckily they change the aprons so we don't look like a Jackson Pollock painting by the end of it," 2013 champion Frances Quinn told Cosmopolitan. "I think layers [is the answer], but even then you still have to wear what you had on, on top. Difficult."

5. The contestants don't have a lot of downtime.

Having any time to spare is not something that season seven contestant Jane Beedle remembers happening regularly for the contestants. "Maybe once or twice, and when they did we would just sit and have a cup of tea and chat with the people around us,” she told the Mirror. "They don't like it if you have nothing to do, so they try and make the challenges as difficult as possible to keep you busy."

6. The temperature in the tent can make or break a bake.

Sue Perkins, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and Frances Quinn in 'The Great British Bake Off'
BBC

Forget setting the oven to the correct temperature—the temperature inside the tent is just as important to a bake. "It's completely alien to your own kitchen at home,” Quinn told Cosmopolitan. “The temperature fluctuates—you'd be making a meringue and it would start raining, or we'd try and make pastry and it would be 27 degrees outside. The technical challenges and lack of time and lack of fridge and work space are the enemy on that show."

7. The illustrations are created by Tom Hovey, after the episode has filmed.

You know those fun illustrations of the confections that pop up when each baker explains what they’re going to make that day? Those are all drawn by illustrator Tom Hovey. He was working as a video editor on the first season of GBBO when the producers realized they needed an extra visual element—so he offered his illustration skills. And while we see the illustrations on screen before the bakers attempt to make them a reality, Hovey told the BBC he draws them “a pack of photos of the finished bakes from the set after each episode has been filmed … I sketch out all the bakes quickly in pencil to get the details, form and shape I am after. I then work these up by hand drawing them all in ink, then they’re scanned and colored digitally, and then I add the titles and ingredient arrows. It's a fairly well streamlined process now.”

Even if a bake goes horribly wrong, Hovey said his “illustrations are a representation of what the bakers hope to create. Even if the bakers don't produce what they’ve intended to I have a degree of artistic license to make them look good.”

8. The contestants don't interact with the judges very much.

“They very much tried to keep it unbiased,” Quinn said about how the bakers don’t spend much time interacting with the judges. “We saw a lot more of Mel and Sue. Mary and Paul would purely come in to do what we called the royal tour—where they'd come in and find out what you were making, and then they'd come back in for judging. You're not in the same hotel having sleepovers! You form more of a relationship after the show when you see them at things like BBC Good Food or whatever—but they need to keep their distance [on the show]. They're there as judges."

9. Making sure that the technical challenge is actually possible is one person's job.

Sandi Toksvig in 'The Great British Bake Off'
Netflix

Another vital behind-the-scenes role is that of the food researcher. It’s down to them to make sure that the elaborate concoction the judges have decided the bakers have to whip up is actually possible, given the ingredients, instructions, and time the bakers will be allowed.

The tent presents its own challenges, too, because it could be hot or cold, depending on the weather, and it tends to have quite a wobbly floor, which can make delicate decorating work trickier than it might otherwise seem. “The tent is just mocked up, so the floor is really bumpy and bouncy because you’d got so many camera guys running around,” Quinn told the Irish Examiner.

10. The show got into some trouble for its partnership with Smeg.

Part of GBBO’s homey charm has to do with the setup of the tent where the bakers do their cooking, and few appliances spell “retro” as well as a colorful Smeg refrigerator. A viewer fed up with what they described as “blatant product promotion” wrote to the Radio Times to complain, and an investigation was launched into the series’ agreement with Smeg. As BBC guidelines state that a series may "not accept free or reduced cost products" in return for "on-air or online credits, links or off-air marketing,” the broadcaster ended up having to write the company a check for all the times their product got some screen time.

11. There are never any leftovers.

The judges only take a mouthful of every bake, which seems to leave an awful lot of leftover pastries, cakes, and ridiculously complicated bread sculptures. But don’t worry—none of it goes to waste. “The crew eats all the leftovers," Beedle told The Mirror. "We get some brought to us in the green room so we can taste each other's bakes, but it's only slithers."

12. Hundreds of season five viewers wrote in to complain about "sabotage."

Midway through season five, contestant Iain Watters had a bit of an issue with his Baked Alaska. Realizing that his ice cream had not yet set, he threw the entire dish into the trash rather than serve the judges a subpar dessert and was sent home as a result. Footage from the episode made is seem as if fellow contestant Diana Beard had removed his ice cream from the freezer. Beard left the show at just about the same time due to health issues, but some viewers (811, to be exact) smelled sabotage—and wrote in to the show’s producers to complain. Media watchdog group Ofcom looked into the matter, but said that they had assessed viewers’ complaints and “they do not raise issues warranting further investigation under Ofcom’s rules.”

Paul Hollywood took to Twitter to clear up what became known as “bingate,” tweeting: “Ice cream being left out of fridge last night for 40 seconds did not destroy Iain’s chances in the bake off, what did was his decision BIN.”

13. Mary Berry watched Breaking Bad backstage.

Although it looks pretty nonstop on screen, there’s quite a bit of downtime during the show’s filming days. Especially for the show’s judges and hosts. Former judge Mary Berry had one unique way of passing the time: binge-watching Breaking Bad. “It’s shocking,” Berry told The Telegraph. “Then you get into it and you think: ‘Have I seen episode four or five?’ You get hooked. It’s better than motor racing, which [my husband] Paul watches—though I’d prefer Downton Abbey.” She’d apparently rope former hosts Mel and Sue into watching it with her on occasion. What better way to relax during a long day of baking than by watching Walter White, umm, baking?

14. The application form is no joke.

Fancy your chances in the Bake Off tent? If you’ve been inspired by the show and reckon you could nab a couple of Star Baker titles, brace yourself: The application form is a whopping eight pages long, and it’s full of probing questions. As well as giving details of your hobbies, lifestyle, and level of experience with various types of baked goods, it also asks applicants to describe their baking style, and answer a couple of existential-sounding questions.

"It's a long application form. I think it's designed to put some people off, essentially," fourth season contestant Beca Lyne-Pirkis said. "It asks you about everything you have done, good and bad. It's designed to get information about your character, stories, mishaps and successes."

Still fancy applying? Though submissions are not open at the moment, you can keep your eyes open for when the next batch of contestants are being accepted here.

15. The audition process is a grueling one.

If you happen to make it through the application process, the audition process is even more difficult. “Every person who makes it into the marquee has passed a rigorous series of tests,” GBBO creator and executive producer Anna Beattie told The Telegraph. In addition to the application form, The Telegraph reported that there is “a 45-minute telephone call with a researcher, bringing two bakes to an audition in London, a screen test and an interview with a producer. If they get through that, there is a second audition baking two recipes … in front of the cameras, and an interview with the show psychologist to make sure they can cope with being filmed for up to 16 hours a day.”

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port. 

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 Kickstarter goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100-$120 if you pledge fast. You can back the ChopBox here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER