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Blast From The Past: The First McD’s Menu Had Just 9 Items

You walk into a McDonald’s today and you’re confronted with a dizzying array of menu choices. But is that really better than the early days, when the first McDonald’s had just 9 items on its menu? Even then, McD’s had all the bases covered…

Original Menu - © 1947 - McDonald'sOverwhelming reality

The McDonald’s main menu today is huge, by anyone’s measure. Some say the choice they’re faced with would be overwhelming, if they didn’t already have go-to favourites.

According to the McDonald’s Official Menu site, the chain offers more than 95 separate food and drink choices. It’s of some help to diners that they’re divided into 11 categories. But you could be excused for being seen scratching your head while waiting in line…

In the beginning…

A photo of the first official McDonald’s menu (left) has surfaced. And it tells a compelling story…

Before Shake Mixer salesman Ray Kroc bought the rights to franchise the McDonald’s model everwhere, in 1961, the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, ran their original stand hands-on. It was THE snacking spot and hangout in San Bernardino, California.

And their first published menu listed a mere 9 items. The majority Hamburgers were just 15 cents. Cheeseburgers were 19 cents. Shakes were 20 cents. And fries (which came in just one size) were a dime. Notably, Coca Cola was already the official beverage of McD’s. And the brand has marched, hand-in-hand with McDonald’s, all the way up the latter of success.

Still anchoring the menu

The original 9 items are still anchoring the McDonald’s menu today. And it appears (though no hard confirmation was available) that they’ve appeared there all along, with out interruption.

However… The beverage selection has grown from 5 to more than 2 dozen items. The sandwich slate has ballooned from the opriginal 2 burgers to 18, including chicken and fish items.

Over the years, of course, they’ve added breakfasts, deserts, Happy Meals and other specialties. And the whole McCafé line of premium coffee drinks.

Energised by competition

Much of the menu expansion at McDonald’s has been in response to the introduction of new items by competing Fast Food chains. The premium coffee initiative was seen as a direct challenge to Star-bucks and other coffee purveyors who were encroaching on McD’s food lines.

The Fast Food sector has, in fact, become a microcosmic, text-book demonstration of the effects of competition the greater economy.

My take

North America is unique in having developed a fast Food culture unparalleled anywhere else. In fact, the US model has been exported worldwide, spawning local spinoffs wherever it’s set down roots.

A look at the evolution of the McDonald’s menu is like a walk down memory lane for many of us who have watched the brand grow over the decades.

Where the Fast Food sector will go in future remains a question mark. But we do know that the ‘burger stand’ of tomorrow will be smaller, faster, more automated and more ‘mobile’ than ever before…

~ Maggie J.

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