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(established 1948)

McDonald's, like Coca‐Cola, Marlboro, and Levi Strauss, has become a highly prominent global brand symbolically associated with notions of an American consumer democracy and way of life. The distinctive ‘Golden Arches’ motif can be seen in about 120 countries, the 30,000th McDonald's restaurant opening in 2001. The origins of the company lay in the 1948 plans of Richard and Maurice McDonald to apply Fordist principles to the fast food business, concentrating on the production of a limited range of items, speedy service, and reduced labour costs. The two other key ingredients lay in a distinctive visual identity for the restaurants and the establishment of an effective franchising system. There is some debate about the origins of the striking ‘Golden Arches’ motif, with many histories accrediting its invention to the architect Stanley Meston, who was commissioned by McDonald's to design a number of their early franchised buildings. However, there is some evidence to suggest that it was Richard McDonald, highly sceptical of the architectural and design professions, who first sketched out the ‘Golden Arches’ and the colour scheme and assigned them to Meston for realization. The first franchised McDonald's restaurant with the distinctive ‘Golden Arch’ was designed by architect Stanley Meston and built in Downey, California, in 1953. Restored in 1997 and reopened with a museum and gift shop on site, it was deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Often considered to be the first visually characteristic McDonald's restaurant was that constructed two years later in Des Plaines, Illinois, also designed by Meston, owned by the McDonald's franchise agent Ray Kroc. The growth of the company was rapid: by 1957 there were 37 McDonald's restaurants, by 1959 over 100, a figure that had doubled in 1960. The definitive McDonald's logo was created in 1968 by the Arcy Agency, based on the ‘Golden Arches’ of the buildings. The first McDonald's outside the USA was established in Canada in 1967, the beginnings of an international trend that has established major markets in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, and Canada. The first McDonald's restaurant in Japan opened in Ginza, Tokyo, in 1971, and the number had grown to more than 2,400 by the early 21st century, making Japan the largest McDonald's market outside the USA. The first McDonald's restaurant on the African continent opened in Morocco in 1992 and in the Middle East in the following year. The first outlet in China was opened in 1992, with more than 80 in Beijing alone by the early 21st century. By the turn of the century eight out of the ten busiest McDonald's restaurants were outside the USA, the busiest being located on Pushkin Square, Moscow, serving 43,000 customers per day. Today, outlets can be found in airports (the first was in Changi Airport, Singapore, in 1981), educational institutions, museums, hospitals, and sports stadiums. However, although McDonald's has attempted to give many of its international outlets an indigenous, local identity through the menu and identification with community causes, the distinctive ‘Golden Arches’ did not always meet with acclaim. In Beijing, China, they were seen as part of an undesirable clutter of signage in the urban environment. In 2002 the city government ordered McDonald's to remove more than 30 ‘Golden Arches’ as it sought to give the city a visual ‘makeover’ in the run‐up to hosting the 2008 Olympic Games.


Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art — Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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