Did you know that McDonald’s, based in Oak Brook, IL, has a flagship restaurant?
It does, complete with chandeliers, curtains, original art, upholstered seating and a sweeping staircase. On an unplanned trip (missed a flight, made it halfway across the country, so stopped and visited dear friend Susan) to Chicago recently, I couldn’t believe this vaguely elegant joint was a Micky Ds. I made Susan take me there and ordered a Big Mac and fries to see how a Big Mac stacked up to the burger in other parts of the world. Get this, it was actually good and looked like the pictures in their advertisements. Curiously, the fries were a little tepid – and you know what that means in McDonald’s Land – they had begun ‘the transition’ from pretty good to plastic.
And here’s an even crazier thing: The company owns the nearby Hamburger University, nestled on 80 idyllic acres replete with a Hyatt Hotel, water fountains and an actual real honest-to-god UNIVERSITY. According to Hamburger University’s website, “training at Hamburger University has emphasized consistent restaurant operations procedures, service, quality and cleanliness. It has become the company’s global center of excellence for McDonald’s operations training and leadership development.” Since its inception in 1961, more than 80,000 restaurant managers, mid-managers and owner/operators have graduated from this facility.
Some fun facts about McDonald’s Nation*:
1) McDonald’s sells more than 75 hamburgers a second.
2) McDonald’s’ daily customer traffic (62M) is greater than the population of Great Britain.
3) Counting $32 billion in revenue from franchise stores, McDonald’s claims the 68th biggest economy, bigger than Ecuador.
4) McDonald’s hires around 1 million workers in the US every year.
5) McDonald’s is the world’s largest distributor of toys, with one included in 20% of all sales.
6) McDonald’s’ iconic golden arches are recognized by more people than the cross.
7) McDonald’s delivers in 18 countries.
8) Americans alone consume one billion pounds of beef at McDonald’s in a year – five and a half million head of cattle (that’s more than Jack’s BBQ!).
Like most Americans, I have a lot of associations at the ubiquitous chain. When I was in elementary school in Kansas, if the kids on our bus were quiet and well-behaved all week, then our bus driver would stop at McDonald’s on Friday afternoon and buy us all a happy meal. McPositive reinforcement. In the summertime, my mom would leave us a little cash every so often and our babysitter would take us there. With no air-conditioning in our house and temperatures that often reached 115-degrees outside, I associated the cool tiled restaurants with a reprieve from the scorching heat outside. McRelief. Sometimes my parents themselves would take us and my dad, begging ‘sips’ from our shakes, would suck half the smooth delight like a Shopvac. That McSucked. There always seemed to be flies in that branch, where Sam and I mastered the art of flipping flies (the trick is, approach them v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, then POW, flip them – it’s really fun, try it). To this day, McDonald’s is my go-to eatery on roadtrips (mostly, because they’re everywhere). McEasy. I’ve even hit McDonald’s when traveling in foreign countries to bask in the familiar. McHome.
Now, I know McDonald’s has taken a lot of heat over the past decade, but for me, it will always hold a special place in my McHeart.