In October 1948, after the McDonald brothers realized that most of their profits came from selling hamburgers, they closed down their successful carhop drive-in to establish a streamlined system with a simple menu of just hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french fries, shakes, soft drinks, and apple pie. The carhops were eliminated to make McDonald's a self-serve operation. Mac and Dick McDonald had taken great care in setting up their kitchen like an assembly line to ensure maximum efficiency. The restaurant's name was again changed, this time to simply "McDonald's," and reopened its doors on December 12, 1948.
In 1953, the McDonald brothers began to franchise their successful restaurant, starting in Phoenix, Arizona and Downey, California; the latter is today the oldest surviving McDonald's restaurant. The McDonald brothers created Speedee to symbolize the quick and efficient service system that they had devised. Downey's Speedee is one of only a few remaining. His little legs, animated in neon, still run as fast as they can to serve the restaurant's next customer. The Speedee sign was erected in 1959 at Downey with its single giant arch and is a one-of-a-kind. It also hearkens back to the days of the postwar era when the roadside was filled with larger than life advertisements of all shapes and colors vying for motorists' attention: "Hey pull in over here, This is Your Kind of Place!" Designed by the architect Stanley Clarke Meston and his assistant Charles Fish, Downey's restaurant is the oldest operating McDonald's in the world. Since it was franchised not by the McDonald's Corporation, but by the McDonald brothers themselves to Roger Williams and Burdette Landon, the Speedee McDonald's was not required to comply with the McDonald's Corporation's remodeling and updating requests over the years.
Recognizing the historic and nostalgic value of the intact 1953 structure, the McDonald's Corporation acquired the store in 1990 and rehabilitated it to a modern but nearly original condition, and then built an adjacent museum and gift shop to commemorate the site. Inside the small museum are many McDonald's artifacts from over the years, and also a small display showing how the restaurant buildings evolved from the small walk-up candy striped stands to the large more common mansard-roofed restaurants.
In 1954, Ray Kroc, a seller of Multimixer milkshake machines, learned that the McDonald brothers were using eight of his machines in their San Bernardino restaurant. His curiosity was piqued, and he went to San Bernardino to take a look at the McDonalds' restaurant.
Believing that the McDonalds' formula was a ticket to success, Kroc suggested that they franchise their restaurants throughout the country. When they hesitated to take on this additional burden, Kroc volunteered to do it for them. He returned to his home outside of Chicago with rights to set up McDonald's restaurants throughout the country, except in a handful of territories in California and Arizona already licensed by the McDonald brothers. Kroc's first McDonald's restaurant opened in Des Plaines, Illinois, near Chicago, on April 15, 1955, the same day that Kroc incorporated his company as McDonald's Systems, Inc. (which he would later rename McDonald's Corporation). Ray Kroc's first McDonald's was then demolished after many remodels in 1984.
Once the Des Plaines restaurant was operational, Kroc sought franchisees for his McDonald's chain. The first snag came quickly. In 1956 he discovered that the McDonald brothers had licensed the franchise rights for Cook County, Illinois to the Frejlack Ice Cream Company. Kroc was incensed that the McDonalds had not informed him of this...