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Restaurant Innovator Richard McDonald Dies at 89: Pioneered McDonald's, World's Largest Restaurant System
OAK BROOK, Ill., July 14, 1998 -  Richard (Dick) McDonald died today in Manchester, N.H. at age 89. Dick McDonald, with his brother Maurice (Mac), pioneered in the late 1940s an innovative quick service restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif., called McDonald's, which evolved into the world's largest foodservice organization. 

McDonald's chairman, Michael R. Quinlan, observed, "The global 'McFamily' of employees, franchisees and suppliers owes a debt of gratitude to Dick McDonald and his late brother, Mac. The McDonald brothers never dreamed that the restaurant system they conceived at their first McDonald's in San Bernardino, would eventually touch so many people throughout the world." 

Fred L. Turner, senior chairman of McDonald's Corporation, who first met the brothers in 1955, commented: "All of us at McDonald's extend our sympathies to the family of Dick McDonald. Together with Mac, Dick pioneered the concept of a quick-service, limited-menu restaurant which became the model for McDonald's and the entire industry. 

Jack M. Greenberg, President and CEO-elect of McDonald's Corporation, said, "We're proud of what the McDonald's name stands for, and to share their name with the world. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dick's family." 

Richard McDonald is survived by his wife, Dorothy, a step-son, Gale French, and two grandchildren. His brother, Mac, died in 1971. Dick McDonald had lived in retirement in New Bedford, N.H., since 1961, when he and his brother sold their proprietary rights in the business to the company Ray A. Kroc had formed in 1955 -- today's McDonald's Corporation. Ray Kroc went on to become one of America's foremost entrepreneurs, building and cultivating a worldwide enterprise, which today has more than 23,000 restaurants across 111 countries. 

Dick McDonald was known as a marketing whiz, having devised the famous Golden Arches, the early "red and white" tile restaurant design (preserved at the McDonald's Museum in Des Plaines, Ill.), and other innovations including the "Millions (later Billions) Served" signs, while his brother Mac was known as the restaurant operations specialist. 

Background - The McDonald's Story 

The McDonald's story began in 1940 when Dick and Mac McDonald opened a highly successful car-hop, barbecue restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif.  In post-war 1948, aware that growing families were more and more concerned about value, and with a growing roadway system making customers more interested in speed of service, they temporarily closed their restaurant, built a simplified menu around their best-liked products, designed a more efficient interior and re-opened with self-service at the former car hop windows. 

Thus, they invented the self-service, drive-in concept that was a limited-menu, paper-service, hand-out operation, featuring 15-cent hamburgers, 19-cent cheeseburgers, 20-cent malts and 10-cent French fries. 

After a slow start, business boomed. In 1952, American Restaurant Magazine ran a cover story on the phenomenal success of the brother's new concept. The McDonald brothers proceeded to franchise and open, in the West, eight of the new concept drive-ins they had originated. They were pioneering an industry. Two years later, a food service equipment salesman named Ray A. Kroc came into the picture. He owned the national marketing rights to the five-spindle Multimixers the brothers used to make their milkshakes, and the brothers had purchased ten of the machines to keep up with their soaring business. 

In 1955, Ray was granted exclusive rights by the brothers to develop and franchise McDonald's drive-ins for the United States. Ray formed McDonald's System, Inc. in 1955. Ray opened the 9th McDonald's, his first, in Des Plaines, IL, in April 1955. In 1961, Ray bought from the McDonald's brothers the proprietary rights to the McDonald's system, including all rights to the rest of the world. The organization that Ray founded -- today's McDonald's Corporation -- proceeded to add more than 23,000 McDonald's restaurants and 4,500 franchisees across more than 111 countries around the world. 

Thus, the McDonald brothers originated the McDonald's self-service drive-in concept and pioneered an industry. Ray Kroc formed a company that, through the dedication of countless franchisees, company people and suppliers, has grown into the most successful foodservice organization in the world. 

Contributions Marked 

While Dick McDonald has been retired for many years, his early contributions to a business that has become an icon of the global service industry, have been marked frequently in recent years.  In 1984, Dick, who grilled the first McDonald's hamburger and started the world-famous burger count on a thermometer he painted outside his San Bernardino restaurant in the '50's, was served the 50 billionth McDonald's hamburger by Ed Rensi, President, McDonald's USA, in a New York City ceremony attended by world press. 

The 1984 McDonald's Annual Report to Shareholders featured a signed editorial by Dick McDonald reflecting on the early importance of customer value. 

In 1987, at the dedication of the 10,000th McDonald's restaurant, Fred Turner opened his comments saying, "Mac and Dick came up with the original design, Ray provided the foundation." Also in 1987, Dick and his wife Dorothy, were honored by William Clay Ford at the opening of "The Automobile in American Life" exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. One of the most prominent artifacts in the exhibit is a restored McDonald's blinking pink neon, single arch outdoor sign from the '50's sporting "Over 100 Million Sold," which was dedicated by Dick McDonald at the opening. 

In 1989, Dick was honored at the annual Shareholders Meeting of McDonald's Corporation. In 1991, he, Mac and Ray Kroc were saluted in a McDonald's Founder's Day television commercial called "One Little Candle," which in part, said "It began as a spark from Dick and Mac McDonald. And with the guiding hand of Ray Kroc, it became a flame. Today, the Golden Arches shine across this land." 

In 1992, Dick, Dorothy and their grandchildren attended a rededication of the site of their historic McDonald's restaurant at 14th and "E" Street in San Bernardino. Now the offices of the San Bernardino Light Opera Company, the base of a still-standing early McDonald's outdoor sign was refurbished and carries a disk at its top saying, "Historic Site of the Original McDonald's." A plaque under the sign, dedicated at the ceremony, says, "Richard and Maurice McDonald opened the world's first McDonald's drive-in restaurant on this site, December, 1948." 

The McDonald brothers were featured in author David Halberstam's best-selling non-fiction book, "The Fifties," which was produced as a television documentary six-part series for the History Channel and aired across the U.S. and Canada in early 1998. Dick McDonald and McDonald's senior chairman, Fred Turner, were interviewed on camera for the series' final episode, "The Road to The 60's."

Chuck Ebeling for McDonald's Corporation, 630-623-6150

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