McDonald’s, the global restaurant chain known for its iconic menu items, took an unexpectedly long time to add one of its most beloved items: french fries. Despite being regarded as some of the best fast food fries, they were not initially part of the McDonald’s menu.
Let’s delve into the intriguing history behind this delayed addition and explore how french fries revolutionized the fast food industry.
The Absence of Fries and the Rise of Potato Chips:
When McDonald’s opened its first location in California in 1940, customers were offered potato chips instead of french fries. The menu focused on the chain’s 15-cent hamburgers, which quickly became a customer favorite.
Surprisingly, it took nine years for McDonald’s to replace potato chips with the fries we now associate with the brand.
The European Origins of French Fries:
French fries are a European invention and had not yet gained widespread popularity in the United States during the 1940s. Fast food chains across America, not just McDonald’s, lacked fries on their menus.
At that time, potato chips, an American invention, were the go-to side dish. However, the tide would soon turn, thanks to the influence of World War I.
The Impact of World War I:
During World War I, American soldiers stationed in Europe were introduced to french fries, particularly in Belgium, where they were a popular street food. Soldiers returning home developed a fondness for crispy fries and sought them out in the United States.
It wasn’t until nine years later, in 1949, that McDonald’s made the switch from potato chips to french fries. However, this delay was not unique to McDonald’s alone. At the time, most American fast food chains were also lacking fries on their menus.
The popularity of french fries in America can be attributed to the influence of World War I and the soldiers who developed a fondness for this European street food.
As a result, fast food establishments gradually replaced potato chips with french fries to meet the demand.
The Evolution of the McDonald’s Menu:
McDonald’s underwent significant menu changes in its early years. When the chain first opened, it operated as a local Bar-B-Que restaurant, offering smoked meats, ham, chili, and even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
In 1948, McDonald’s shifted its focus and reduced its menu to nine core items, including soft drinks, potato chips, and hamburgers. The following year, in 1949, french fries made their long-awaited appearance.
With the success of the hamburger and the addition of fries, McDonald’s continued to expand its menu over the years. In 1965, they introduced the Filet-O-Fish, marking the first non-hamburger entree on their national menu.
The Big Mac, one of McDonald’s most iconic menu items, made its debut in 1968. The chain marketed it as “the meal disguised as a sandwich,” catering to adult customers and further diversifying their offerings.
The Expansion of the McDonald’s Menu:
As McDonald’s grew in popularity, it continued to expand its menu. In 1965, the Filet-O-Fish became the first non-hamburger entree to be offered on the national menu, providing customers with more variety. Three years later, in 1968, the Big Mac was introduced as a substantial sandwich aimed at attracting adult customers. The Big Mac quickly became one of McDonald’s most popular menu items.
While it may come as a surprise, McDonald’s took a considerable amount of time to add french fries to its menu, despite their status as an iconic fast food item. The delayed introduction of fries can be attributed to the popularity of potato chips and the European origins of french fries.
However, once fries gained traction in America, they became an integral part of fast food culture, and McDonald’s adapted by including them on their menu. The evolution of McDonald’s menu reflects the changing tastes and demands of customers, solidifying the status of french fries as a beloved staple in the fast food industry.