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June 10, 2020

A 65-Year Commitment to Quality, Service and Cleanliness Paved the Way for McDonald’s Pandemic Response

Quotation marks
Mike B. McDonald’s Senior Archives ManagerChicago, Illinois, USA
McDonald’s Senior Archives Manager Mike Bullington, wearing gloves, holds up a McDonald’s artifact.

McDonald’s Senior Archives Manager Mike Bullington stands in the company’s archives collection.

Now that the world is grappling with an unprecedented public health crisis, our commitment to cleanliness has taken on even greater significance. 

When the McDonald brothers opened their first restaurant in 1948, they had cleanliness top of mind. 

This commitment became even more important when they began their franchising efforts and introduced their unique red and white McDonald’s restaurant buildings.    

The buildings’ fishbowl design meant that from the pick-up window – and as far as the parking lot – customers could see directly into the kitchen. They could see the crew hard at work, and their food being prepared in real time. This was unusual for restaurants, if not unprecedented.    

Of course, no one wants to see that their burgers and fries served from a dirty kitchen – so the McDonald brothers made sure the kitchen, and the rest of the restaurant, were always immaculately clean.   

As the company grew and Ray Kroc took the helm, Ray held onto the belief that restaurants must always be noticeably clean and hygienic for customers and crew. In fact, he emphasized this on the very first page of the first-ever McDonald’s Manual for restaurant operators in 1958:

An excerpt from the first-ever McDonald’s Manual for restaurant operators in 1958 that reads, “It is our obligation to serve our customers in the cleanest, most wholesome, dignified atmosphere, with high quality products. On this basis of high standards we can look forward to long, continuous growth.”

An excerpt from the first-ever McDonald’s Manual for restaurant operators in 1958.

And as McDonald’s expanded around the country – and later, around the world – our standards for cleanliness remained high, and industry-leading.    

For example, here’s what Ray had to say in a 1966 memo to franchisees:  

An excerpt from a 1966 memo Ray Kroc sent to franchisees that reads, “That’s all we have to sell – just two things, cleanliness and service. Oh sure, we have the world’s finest French fries and an outstanding fish sandwich and better than most of everything else – but the real impressive things for the customer are what he gets before he starts to eat. Up to this time he has eaten only with his eyes. Cleanliness and service are what he can see. If his eyes are happy, you know the food will taste better.”

An excerpt from a 1966 memo Ray Kroc sent to franchisees.

Now that the world is grappling with an unprecedented public health crisis, our commitment to cleanliness has taken on even greater significance. The principles the McDonald brothers and Ray Kroc shared have uniquely positioned McDonald’s to quickly respond and adjust operations to meet both customer demand and the needs of the many people who work in McDonald’s restaurants around the world. This is possible because over the last six decades, McDonald’s has evolved our quality, service and cleanliness standards to meet the changing tastes of consumers, food safety guidelines, hygiene standards and more. 

We saw proof of the strength of the McDonald’s system as the pandemic unfolded and restaurant operations were able to rely on our existing standards and best practices to help protect our customers and teams. Consulting with our existing networks of leading experts and using guidance from local and global health authorities, McDonald’s leveraged our 65 years of experience in quality and safety to evolve our operations to meet the challenge. We’ve seen evidence of this in the global execution and in the way that markets around the world were able to instill confidence and calm in an unsettling time.   

The signage showing new restaurant safety precautions in South America, the fun, informative videos about social distancing in The Netherlands, and the plans for restaurant re-opening celebrations in Portugal I’ve seen have all been inspiring.  

In fact, if you’ve visited your local restaurant lately, you may have already noticed some enhanced safety procedures.   

Illustrated photos of a cleaning spray bottle, mask and gloves, and the act of hand washing.

These Safety+ icons represent some new procedures being rolled out in restaurants across the globe.

Market by market, these procedures build on McDonald’s constant commitment to cleanliness and service.   

I think Ray Kroc would be proud to know McDonald’s, now the biggest restaurant company in the world, has taken this legacy commitment to quality, service and cleanliness and elevated it in a time of unprecedented uncertainty.   


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