McDonald’s Behind the Scenes: 5 Surprising Facts

Pretty much everyone in the world knows what McDonald’s is and has eaten there at least once, but how much do you really know about the fast food titan’s inner workings? Today, we’re going to look behind the scenes at the Chicago-based company that has served up billions of burgers throughout the years to see how they operate. Here are five surprising facts about McDonald’s that cover the past, present, and future.

It Was The Biggest, Then It Wasn’t, Then It Was

Throughout the years, McDonald’s has had a back-and-forth fight against contending restaurants to have the most locations in the world. When data began being tracked in 1971 for the number of locations, Kentucky Fried Chicken was far and away the most popular with over 3,000 locations while McDonald’s was chugging along with just over 1,000. However, McDonald’s was about to expand furiously.

It only took until 1975 for McDonald’s to catch and pass KFC for the most locations, and the chain held the record for decades. In the late 2000s, Subway saw a massive expansion of its own, and by the end of the decade surpassed McDonald’s in total locations by thousands. Subway took a massive hit in popularity in the years that followed, though, while McDonald’s continued to increase its amount of restaurants to surpass Subway once again.

McDonald’s Dabbled With Home Cooking

With McDonald’s being headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the company often toys around with new ideas in the Chicagoland area. One of these concepts was an idea to serve more “homestyle” meals that customers could take home. Essentially, it was a fast food version of a dine-in restaurant with people encouraged to take the meals home. It was called Hearth Express, and it only lasted for a year.

Menu items such as meatloaf and baked ham were supposed to be full-fledged family meals, though McDonald’s said that the concept wouldn’t catch on. For McDonald’s, it came at a time of tremendous growth for its typical restaurants, so it wasn’t a big loss. This is why many people never heard of Hearth Express and its failure. 

The Process of Adding an Item is Daunting

When you think of McDonald’s, some of the first things that come to mind are the hamburgers, French fries, sodas, and milkshakes. While those are staples that will never be removed from the menu, McDonald’s has added a ton of items throughout the years which would also become staples. Items like the Filet O’Fish, Big Mac, and McNuggets are among the best examples of that.

Over the years, though, there have been plenty of menu items that have come and gone quickly. Some, in fact, were on the menu for a shorter period of time than the testing and planning process. When McDonald’s decides to add a new menu nationwide in the United States, it goes through a rigorous process that can take up to a year. Surprisingly, the All-Day Breakfast which drastically changed McDonald’s took a “short” nine months.

Play Places Are Now Hidden Gems

There was a time when each new McDonald’s was being built with a massive playground area known as a Play Place. This was because the fast food giant wanted to be seen as a safe spot for children and an overall hub for the local community where people could gather. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the Play Places shut down. When things got better, McDonald’s opened up dining room seating, but not the Play Places.

While some franchised McDonald’s locations started to open up their Play Places again, a vast majority of them remained closed. Now, just like the dine-in Pizza Hut or the Wendy’s with a buffet, you’ll struggle to find one that’s open. The liability issues, the intense cleaning process, and more caused McDonald’s to reconsider their position on the Play Place.

Some Items Don’t Make Money

McDonald’s often has the cheapest soft drinks and French fries in the fast food business, but they’re still making a killing off of each one sold. The company is hoping that you grab these two and hopefully a hamburger as the profit margins for the staples are high while the volume sold turned McDonald’s into the king of fast food.

Then, there are the items that McDonald’s won’t make much money on at all, so skipping the fries and drinks could end up costing them money. A McDouble has a surprisingly low-profit margin while the salads (which are no longer on the menu) were the most expensive items for McDonald’s by a long shot. Other low-profit items include the Quarter Pounder, McChicken, and apple slices.

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