The inventor of the McDonald’s iconic Big Mac, Michael James “Jim” Delligatti, has died in Pittsburgh at the age of 98.
Jim Delligatti, a longtime Pennsylvania McDonald’s franchisee, is credited with creating the Big Mac menu item about 50 years ago. Delligatti opened his first (of many) McDonald’s fast-food restaurants in 1957 in the Pittsburgh area. He passed way Monday night at home surrounded by family.
Delligatti, a World War II veteran, is also credited with participating in the creation of the McDonald’s equally popular breakfast menu, specifically the hot cakes and sausage meal originally created for third-shift steelworkers.
The Big Mac, which was sold for 45 cents at the time of its creation, famously contains two all-beef patties, plus a special sauce and lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions, on a sesame-seed bun. Each one now sells for about $5.
The Associated Press provided this background on the creation of the Big Mac, which it described as possibly the most well-known fast-food sandwich on the planet, and for which McDonald’s was initially reluctant to give Delligatti permission.
“Delligatti’s franchise was based in Uniontown, not far from Pittsburgh, when he invented the chain’s signature burger in 1967 after deciding customers wanted a bigger sandwich. Demand exploded as Delligatti’s sandwich spread to the rest of his 47 stores in Pennsylvania and was added to the chain’s national menu in 1968…Jim Delligatti told The Associated Press in 2006 that McDonald’s resisted the idea at first because its simple lineup of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and shakes was selling well.”
Big Mac inventor Delligatti received zero royalties from the McDonald’s corporation for his creation, however.
“‘All I got was a plaque,’ he once said,” the Wall Street Journal recalled.
About 10 years ago, the Delligatti family opened a Big Mac museum in suburban Pittsburgh, the WSJ added. Delligatti also co-founded Pittsburgh’s Ronald McDonald house in 1979.
Next year, McDonald’s plans to introduce some Big Mac variations, the Inquisitr previously detailed. The Grand Mac and the Mac Jr. are coming to a burger franchise near you soon. McDonald’s hopes that the new Macs will regenerate interest in the 50-year-old burger. Studies have apparently shown that a significant cohort of millennials have never even tasted a Big Mac despite growing up in the Happy Meal era. The Big Mac is reportedly still responsible for 20 percent of McDonald’s revenue.
In a statement, McDonald’s had this to say about passing of Jim Delligatti.
“Jim was a legendary franchisee within McDonald’s system who made a lasting impression on our brand. We will remember Jim as an insightful franchisee, a knowledgeable businessman, and an honorable gentleman who left a legacy of four generations of family members running great restaurants in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.”
The Big Mac inventor ate one of his creations at least once a week for many years, the Daily Mail claimed.
Upon the burger creation’s 40th anniversary, McDonald’s indicated that it was selling a staggering 550 million Big Macs each year in restaurants in the U.S. and around the world.
Jim Delligatti had an unassuming analysis of his role in creating the Big Mac, the WSJ further recalled.
“Mr. Delligatti acknowledged that the Big Mac was derived from double-deck hamburgers made popular by rival fast-food restaurants. ‘This wasn’t like discovering the lightbulb,’ he told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. ‘The bulb was already there. All I did was screw it in the socket.’ Even so, his initiative helped launch McDonald’s on a long-running diversification of a menu once limited to little more than basic hamburgers, fries, shakes and soft drinks.”
The funeral for Big Mac inventor Jim Delligatti is scheduled for Saturday near Pittsburgh.
[Featured Image by Gene J. Puskar/AP Images]