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Then and now: How the McDonald's menu has changed through the years

In days past, McDonald's employees in hats would take your order at the counter.

In days past, McDonald's employees in hats would take your order at the counter.

McDonald's made money off its speedy service model.

At the original McDonald's Bar-B-Q restaurant in San Bernardino, California, customers could pull up to the restaurant for carhop service. Future locations would switch to the walk-up model.

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Today, McDonald's is still trying to innovate ways to make the ordering process more efficient.

Today, McDonald's is still trying to innovate ways to make the ordering process more efficient.

In 2018, Forbes reported that by 2020, self-service kiosks would be available in all US McDonald's locations.

McDonald's said it still has cashiers, but that the company found people take more time to browse and sometimes order more when using the machine.

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The very first McDonald's menu was large. However, in 1948, the McDonald brothers reduced the restaurant's offerings down to just nine items.

The very first McDonald's menu was large. However, in 1948, the McDonald brothers reduced the restaurant's offerings down to just nine items.

The new menu included hamburgers, cheeseburgers, soft drinks, milk, coffee, potato chips, and a slice of pie.

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Needless to say, the menu has drastically expanded since then.

Needless to say, the menu has drastically expanded since then.

In 2013, McDonald's had a whopping 145 items on its menu, with more being added consistently. Around the world, McDonald's visitors can try a variety of exclusive menu items not available in the US, like a chicken sandwich topped with mozzarella sticks in South Korea.

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In 1949, potato chips were swapped with french fries and McDonald's began selling milkshakes.

In 1949, potato chips were swapped with french fries and McDonald's began selling milkshakes.

The new item called Triple Thick Milkshakes were made using Multimixer. The addition of milkshakes to the McDonald's menu would completely shift the future of the chain.

After Multimixer salesman Ray Kroc visited the original McDonald's brothers to sell them more mixers, he became intrigued in the business. He would go on to purchase the small business and become the tycoon and leader of the fast-food giant for thirty years.

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The first McFlurry was created in Canada in 1995 and has become one of the chain's most famous items.

The first McFlurry was created in Canada in 1995 and has become one of the chain's most famous items.

McFlurries have come out in a variety of delicious flavors including Oreo, M&M, and the brand new Oreo Shamrock McFlurry.

In addition to McFlurries, McDonald's still offers "triple thick" milkshakes in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

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In 1993, McDonald's opened the first McCafé in Melbourne, Australia.

In 1993, McDonald's opened the first McCafé in Melbourne, Australia.

The new coffee chain would operate as a smaller sect of the larger McDonald's franchise. The first US location opened in Chicago, Illinois, in 2001. McDonald's relaunched McCafé branded products in 2017 after shifting its focus away from the coffee brand.

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Brick-and-mortar McCafé locations have closed, but customers can still get McCafé drinks in McDonald's locations.

Brick-and-mortar McCafé locations have closed, but customers can still get McCafé drinks in McDonald's locations.

Today, you can purchase everything from coffee favorites like caramel macchiatos and french vanilla lattes to the iconic Shamrock Shake.

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The first new item to be added to the national menu was the Filet-O-Fish sandwich in 1965.

The first new item to be added to the national menu was the Filet-O-Fish sandwich in 1965.

It was created in 1962 by Lou Groen, a McDonald's franchise owner in Cincinnati, Ohio, after he realized hamburger sales were declining on Fridays during the season of Lent. By 1965, it was a staple on menus nationwide and is still popular each spring.

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In 2009, a McDonald's commercial advertising the Filet-O-Fish went viral.

In 2009, a McDonald's commercial advertising the Filet-O-Fish went viral.

The ad, which showed a bass wall decoration singing "Gimme Back That Filet-O-Fish" cemented the sandwich's place in McDonald's history.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, 300 million Filet-O-Fish sandwiches were sold in 2013 alone.

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Three years later, the Big Mac was released nationwide.

Three years later, the Big Mac was released nationwide.

Created by owner and operator Jim Delligatti of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1967, the first "Big Mac" featured a triple-decker burger and sold for 45 cents.

When the burger was chosen to roll out across the US, there was a lot of deliberation over the name. Two other name options included the Aristocrat and the Blue Ribbon Burger, but both were nixed.

However, Esther Glickstein Rose, a 21-year-old secretary for the company's advertising department in 1967, had the winning name — "Big Mac." According to the AP, executives and other employees at the time laughed at the name. However, it stuck and went on to become "one of the best-known product names of all time."

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Today, an estimated 900 million Big Macs are sold each year around the world.

Today, an estimated 900 million Big Macs are sold each year around the world.

Little has changed about the burger's appearance since its debut. However, McDonald's announced on October 1, 2018, that it would remove all artificial preservatives, flavors, and coloring from the Big Mac.

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In 2007, McDonald's announced it would be releasing a brand-new Angus Third Pounder burger.

In 2007, McDonald's announced it would be releasing a brand-new Angus Third Pounder burger.

Southern California franchisee Mike Pernecky had asked the chain to release a burger bigger than the Quarter Pounder. Pernecky worked with the McDonald's corporate culinary team to develop the Angus burgers, helping the chain to release the new entrée in Deluxe, Bacon & Cheese, and Mushroom & Swiss styles.

However, after a three-month deliberation, McDonald's made the decision to pull its thicker burgers in 2013. That same year, McDonald's also pulled its Fish McBites, a spin-off of the popular Filet-O-Fish sandwich.

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Today, you can't get a Third Pounder — but you can get a Double Quarter Pounder.

Today, you can't get a Third Pounder — but you can get a Double Quarter Pounder.

However, while Double Quarter Pounders are a staple on most US-based McDonald's menus, you won't always find them worldwide.

In August 2019, McDonald's announced it would be bringing the famous burger back to the UK and Ireland after an eight-year hiatus. However, the burger only remained on menus for seven weeks before it was discontinued again.

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Other menu items have undergone recipe and name changes.

Other menu items have undergone recipe and name changes.

McDonald's Chicken Selects, which debuted in 2004, became a massive success. However, they disappeared off of menus in 2013.

"As always, we are constantly evolving our menu and listening to our customers to meet their changing needs," McDonald's representative Danya Proud said in a statement.

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In 2017, McDonald's answered fans and foodies' prayers by bringing back their tenders under the new name Buttermilk Crispy Tenders.

In 2017, McDonald's answered fans and foodies' prayers by bringing back their tenders under the new name Buttermilk Crispy Tenders.

"Our customers expect and deserve more from us, which pushed us to not only pursue a buttermilk crispy tender option but also ensure 100% white meat chicken with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives," a McDonald's representative told Business Insider at the time. "We are now also offering our most extensive line of dipping sauces ever with this new dish."

After they were released, they promptly sold out in a huge success not replicated until the Popeyes chicken sandwich. The chicken tenders still appear to be a popular menu item.

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Happy Meals came out in 1979 while Chicken McNuggets were released in 1983.

Happy Meals came out in 1979 while Chicken McNuggets were released in 1983.

The original idea for the Happy Meal is said to have come from a McDonald's employee in Guatemala named Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño. Fernández de Cofiño developed a meal deal she called the "Menu Ronald," which included a hamburger, small fries, and a small sundae specifically for kids.

McDonald's advertising executive Bob Bernstein then introduced the idea to swap the small sundae for a plastic toy. In 1979, McDonald's rolled out its first Happy Meal nationwide. The first one was circus-themed.

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However, in the early 2000s, McDonald's faced criticism of its meals marketed towards children as childhood obesity continued to rise.

However, in the early 2000s, McDonald's faced criticism of its meals marketed towards children as childhood obesity continued to rise.

In 2018, McDonald's removed chocolate milk and cheeseburgers from its Happy Meal menu.

The chain has promised that at least 50% of Happy Meals will be 600 calories or less and also have reduced sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar by 2022.

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McDonald's introduced the "Supersize" option in April 1992.

McDonald's introduced the "Supersize" option in April 1992.

Supersize fries came in a 7-ounce carton, versus the 6-ounce carton of the "large" fries size. In 2004, McDonald's announced it would be phasing out its supersized options in what spokesman Walt Riker described as a move towards "menu simplification."

Many, however, believed the action to be a result of the 2004 documentary film, "Supersize Me," in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ate McDonald's food every day for a month and documented his deteriorating health.

Riker said at the time that the decision had "nothing to do with that (film) whatsoever."

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In 2004, Mcdonald's released its "Real Life Choices" menu with "healthier" options.

In 2004, Mcdonald's released its "Real Life Choices" menu with "healthier" options.

The menu featured items considered to be low-fat, low-calorie and low-carb, including a grilled chicken sandwich and fruit yogurt.

"McDonald's is always looking for ways to provide customers with convenience, variety, and value," Ed Acre, a McDonald's restaurant owner, said at the time. "We created the McDonald's Real Life Choices program to make it easy for our customers to eat at McDonald's no matter what their lifestyle."

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Now, you won't find a specific diet menu at McDonald's, but you can still grab a salad.

Now, you won't find a specific diet menu at McDonald's, but you can still grab a salad.

However, while there are no specific keto-approved menu items advertised, you can still find an option or two to fit your low-carb lifestyle.

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In 1972, Herb Peterson of Santa Barbara, California, pitched his latest creation to McDonald's owner Ray Croc — it was what we now know as the Egg McMuffin.

In 1972, Herb Peterson of Santa Barbara, California, pitched his latest creation to McDonald's owner Ray Croc — it was what we now know as the Egg McMuffin.

Kroc later told the story of how the Egg McMuffin came to be in his 1977 autobiography, "Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonald's."

"He didn't want me to reject it out of hand, which I might have done, because it was a crazy idea — a breakfast sandwich," Kroc wrote. "It consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle, with the yolk broken, and was dressed with a slice of cheese and a slice of grilled Canadian bacon. This was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin. I boggled a bit at the presentation. But then I tasted it, and I was sold."

According to Time, Patty Turner, the wife of a McDonald's executive, came up with the name "Egg McMuffin." By 1975, the Egg McMuffin was being sold nationwide for the low price of 63 cents.

By 1981, breakfast accounted for 18% of all McDonald's sales, Time reported.

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Today, you can get your McDonald's Egg McMuffin — and many other breakfast items — any time of day.

Today, you can get your McDonald's Egg McMuffin — and many other breakfast items — any time of day.

In 1993, McDonald's opened the first McCafé in Melbourne, Australia. In 2015, the company expanded its breakfast menu to be all day. McDonald's just released two new chicken-based breakfast sandwiches nationwide in an effort to compete with rival restaurants Chick-fil-A, Wendy's, and Popeyes.

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McDonald's restaurants in Hawaii began serving spam, eggs, and rice for breakfast in 2002.

McDonald's restaurants in Hawaii began serving spam, eggs, and rice for breakfast in 2002.

The menu item may seem strange to mainland Americans, but spam is still extremely popular in the island state. According to one Hawaii-based blogger, you can still find the item on Hawaiian McDonald's menus.

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You can still get a breakfast platter from McDonald's in most locations nationwide, but it's much more traditional to classic American breakfast foods.

You can still get a breakfast platter from McDonald's in most locations nationwide, but it's much more traditional to classic American breakfast foods.

The McDonald's Big Breakfast platter includes a biscuit, sausage, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and hash browns.

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McDonald's has had a number of seemingly strange items on its menu, including pizza.

McDonald's has had a number of seemingly strange items on its menu, including pizza.

A national menu item in the 1980s and 1990s, McDonald's pizza is now discontinued in most locations. As of 2017, there were only three McDonald's locations in the US that still sold it — Pomeroy, Ohio; Spenser, West Virginia; and Orlando, Florida.

Now, only the Orlando location is rumored to still sell pizza, which makes sense considering it is one of the largest McDonald's in the world. The menu also includes paninis.

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Another unusual addition to the McDonald's menu was lobster rolls in the early 90s.

Another unusual addition to the McDonald's menu was lobster rolls in the early 90s.

The very first "McLobster" was released in 1993 and was brought back on-and-off throughout the 2000s.

In 2016, McDonald's relaunched its $9 lobster roll in a number of New England locations. Made with "100% North Atlantic lobster meat," the rolls have yet to make their buttery return to menus in the past few years.

There are a number of other McDonald's menu items you can no longer order in the US, including mozzarella sticks and McSpaghetti.

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The infamous McRib sandwich first appeared on McDonald's menus in 1981.

The infamous McRib sandwich first appeared on McDonald's menus in 1981.

After four years of lackluster sales, it was removed from the chain's menu. However, in 1989, the McRib returned. Until 2005, the item could be found on many McDonald's menus worldwide and is a staple at locations in Germany and Luxembourg.

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In October 2019, the McRib made its triumphant return yet again.

In October 2019, the McRib made its triumphant return yet again.

"We're always listening to our customers and we know the McRib has some of the most loyal fans," Chef Chad Schafer, senior director of culinary innovation and commercialization at McDonald's USA, said in a news release.

McRibs are no longer available in US locations, and many still believe the menu item is absolutely disgusting.

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Plant-based fast food items are all the rage in 2020, but McDonald's began developing vegetarian burgers years ago.

Plant-based fast food items are all the rage in 2020, but McDonald's began developing vegetarian burgers years ago.

In 2012, McDonald's opened its first vegetarian restaurant in Amritsar, India. In India, most of the population are Hindu and don't consume beef, and in 2012, 42% of the population reported avoiding meat altogether.

According to McDonald's India's website, the menu still offers a number of interesting vegetarian menu items, including the McVeggie and the vegan McAloo which features a fried patty made from potatoes and peas.

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Today, plant-based menu options are soaring in popularity, and McDonald's is poised to release its own Beyond Meat burger in all US locations.

Today, plant-based menu options are soaring in popularity, and McDonald's is poised to release its own Beyond Meat burger in all US locations.

Though the burger has yet to roll out nationwide, Business Insider had the opportunity to try the new menu item, which comes off the heels of the successful Impossible Whopper sold at Burger King.

There's a huge opportunity in the fast-food industry for vegan and vegetarian menu items. According to a previous article by Business Insider, the addition of the Impossible Whopper showed to boost sales at Burger King, something analysts believe McDonald's may be trying to replicate in its own restaurants.

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