McDonald's Actually Got Its Start As A Barbecue Restaurant

ribs on a grill
ribs on a grill - Mphillips007/Getty Images
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Fast food is a massive industry, with a market share of around $322 billion. And while Americans love fast food in general, one brand tends to stand above all others: McDonald's. As the originator of fast food as a concept, it's not shocking that McDonald's is still the company sitting at the top of the heap, with more locations worldwide than any other fast food chain in the world and an industry-wide lead in profit.

But despite being the company that created the entire idea of fast food and revolutionizing the way Americans eat, McDonald's didn't start out as a fast food chain. Instead, it began as a humble barbecue restaurant with an original menu that featured not only burgers but all manner of grill staples. The company's journey from there to here was a long one involving two brothers with a completely new idea -- and the salesman who effectively stole the company out from under them.

Read more: The Ultimate American Fast Food Restaurants Ranked

The McDonald Brothers Changed Their Restaurant Because Of Sales

old fashioned McDonald's sign
old fashioned McDonald's sign - James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

The entity that would become McDonald's didn't start as McDonald's, but rather an octagonal food stand called The Airdrome founded by a man named Patrick McDonald in 1937, located near the Monrovia Airport in Monrovia, California (near Los Angeles). McDonald didn't stay in the game very long, though. In 1940, his sons Richard (Dick) and Maurice (Mac) McDonald took over the business and opened their first McDonald's Famous Barbecue location, a carhop drive-in-based restaurant (basically, think Sonic).

Less than a decade later, they realized that their extensive barbecue menu was being dominated by one item in particular: hamburgers. As a result, they closed their initial location -- which was making money, it's worth noting -- and opened up a new building dedicated to an entirely new process that was essentially the mass production fast food assembly line system we know today. Within six years, they had six franchise locations and caught the attention of the man who would drive the company ever higher.

Ray Kroc Eventually Took Over The Company

McDonald's M sign
McDonald's M sign - Thad/Getty Images

In 1954, a milkshake salesman named Ray Kroc became interested in McDonald's and pushed to become the company's largest franchisee. The McDonald brothers were skeptical that their business model could succeed outside California, so they essentially gave Kroc free rein in exchange for just 0.5% of gross sales. Kroc's locations quickly began raking in money, and in 1961, he asked the brothers how much they'd want to sell the entire operation to him. Their demands were $2.7 million (a pittance considering what the company would go on to become) and the rights to their original franchise location (now called "The Big M"). Kroc gave them both -- but then spitefully opened a McDonald's near The Big M, eventually driving it out of business.

Though McDonald's eventually became known for a simple menu of burgers, fries, milkshakes, and apple pie, it started as a barbecue location with a much more diverse menu. Considering what eventually became of it, it's hard to say the change wasn't a smart one.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.