Everybody is lovin’ Michael Keaton as mean McDonald’s maven Ray Kroc in The Founder. The movie focuses on how the brash milkshake machine salesman bullied the California brothers who invented fast food out of their company and relocated it from San Bernardino to Chicago. It also shows off some of the elaborate systems and weird equipment Dick and Mac McDonald labored over to create their iconic hamburger stand.
Many of those gadgets are on display at a McDonald’s museum on the site of the chain’s first restaurant. Fast food maven Albert Okura, founder of Juan Pollo, bought the site and built a shrine to the McDonald brothers. His museum is filled with Happy Meal creatures, rides from McDonaldland, and incredibly rare artifacts that tell the origin story of fast food. Here are some of our favorites from the collection.
Menu from McDonald’s Barbecue
From 1940 to 1948, McDonald’s was a single drive-in barbecue restaurant featuring grilled meats, tamales, and a soda fountain. They closed the successful restaurant in 1948 and pared down the menu to just hamburgers. Streamlining the offerings opened the door for a new way of making food.
This was the device that introduced Kroc to the McDonald brothers. When the Multimixer salesman heard how many machines the brothers ordered, he made the delivery in person. By shortening the spindles on the machines, the brothers were able to save time by mixing shakes right in the paper cup, instead of the metal tumblers everybody else used. The machines are still being made today.
Master craftsmen Edward and Florian Toman had a machine shop and forge in San Bernardino and built much of the custom equipment dreamed up by Dick and Mac. They built this funnel-shaped device with a trigger that simultaneously applied the perfect amount of ketchup and mustard to a bun with the touch of a button.
When McDonald’s was a drive-in barbecue restaurant, its carhops would serve customers a full meal with china and silverware. Converting to a fast food operation completely eliminated the need for dishes and they started serving burgers in these little bags.
The brothers made elaborate motion studies of how workers moved. Then they had the Toman machine shop create custom grill scrapers with extra long handles to minimize the arm movements of the grill man. The first spatulas had extra long blades so that multiple burgers could be flipped at the same time.
Architect Stanley Meston designed the standardized prototype used for the first thousand locations. Employees were on display inside a glass fishbowl with an eye-catching roof, two golden arches incorporated into the building itself, and walls covered in red-and-white tile. The design was repeated from coast to coast. When you spotted the golden arches, you immediately knew you were approaching a McDonald’s.
The young men (and it was always young men) who worked at the restaurants wore all white to emphasize the cleanliness of the operation.
Customers at the earliest McDonald’s were directed by neon arrows to separate windows to order burgers, fries, and drinks. This “Speedee Service System” (there’s Speedee himself right on the cup) kept the lines moving quickly.
McDonald’s almost single-handedly put carhops out of a job. The brothers put the food in a paper sack, handed it out through a window, and you were on your own.