50 YEARS LATER, BIG MAC STILL GOLDEN

The Province - - LIVE IT! - CANDICE CHOI

NEW YORK — McDon­ald’s is fight­ing to hold onto cus­tomers as the Big Mac turns 50, but it isn’t chang­ing the mak­ings of its most fa­mous burger.

The com­pany is cel­e­brat­ing the 1968 na­tional launch of the dou­ble-decker sand­wich whose in­gre­di­ents of “two all­beef pat­ties, spe­cial sauce, let­tuce, cheese, pick­les, onions and a sesame seed bun” were seared into Amer­i­can mem­o­ries by a TV jin­gle.

The mile­stone comes as the com­pany re­duces its num­ber of U.S. stores. McDon­ald’s said last Thurs­day that cus­tomers are vis­it­ing less of­ten. Other trendy burger op­tions are reach­ing into the heart­land.

The “Golden Arches” still have a mas­sive global reach, and the McDon­ald’s brand of cheese­burg­ers, chicken nuggets and french fries re­mains rec­og­niz­able around the world.

But on its crit­i­cal home turf, the com­pany is toil­ing to stay rel­e­vant. Kale now ap­pears in sal­ads, fresh has re­placed frozen beef pat­ties in Quar­ter Pounders, and some stores now of­fer or­der­ing kiosks, food de­liv­ery and barista-style cafes.

“Clearly, we’ve got­ten a lit­tle more so­phis­ti­cated in our menu de­vel­op­ment,” McDon- ald’s CEO Steve Easter­brook said in a phone in­ter­view.

As with many of its pop­u­lar and long-last­ing menu items, the idea for the Big Mac came from a fran­chisee.

In 1967, Michael James “Jim” Del­li­gatti lob­bied the com­pany to let him test the burger at his Pitts­burgh restau­rants. Later, he ac­knowl­edged the Big Mac’s sim­i­lar­ity to a pop­u­lar sand­wich sold by the Big Boy chain.

“This wasn’t like dis­cov­er­ing the light bulb. The bulb was al­ready there. All I did was screw it in the socket,” Del­li­gatti said, ac­cord­ing to Be­hind the Arches.

McDon­ald’s agreed to let Del­li­gatti sell the sand­wich at a sin­gle lo­ca­tion, on the con­di­tion that he use the com­pany’s stan­dard bun. It didn’t work. Del­li­gatti tried a big­ger sesame seed bun, and the burger soon lifted sales by more than 12%.

Af­ter sim­i­lar re­sults at more stores, the Big Mac was added to the na­tional menu in 1968. Other ideas from fran­chisees that hit the big time in­clude the Filet-O-Fish, Egg Mc­Muf­fin, Ap­ple Pie (once deep-fried but now baked), and the Sham­rock Shake.

“The com­pany has ben­e­fited from the in­ge­nu­ity of its small busi­ness men,” wrote Ray Kroc, who trans­formed the McDon­ald’s into a global fran­chise, in his book, Grind­ing It Out.

How­ever, a McDon­ald’s fran­chisee fret­ted in 2016 that only one out of five mil­len­ni­als has tried the Big Mac. The Big Mac had “got­ten less rel­e­vant,” the fran­chisee wrote in a memo, ac­cord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal.

McDon­ald’s then ran pro­mo­tions de­signed to in­tro­duce the Big Mac to more peo­ple. Those kind of pe­ri­odic cam­paigns should help keep the Big Mac rel­e­vant for years to come, says Mike Del­li­gatti, the son of the Big Mac in­ven­tor, who died last year.

“What iconic sand­wich do you know that can beat the Big Mac as far as longevity?” said Del­li­gatti, him­self a McDon­ald’s fran­chisee.

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