Big Mac MealMcDonald’s is known for consistency. A Mickey D’s burger is the same in Dayton, Ohio as it is in San Diego, CA as it is in Florence, Italy.  The fries are cooked at the same temperature. The same brand of ketchup is used. EVERY DETAIL must meet strict guidelines, because the McDonald’s brand is built on consistency. 

But, what most would consider to be McDonald’s flagship sandwich, was created by a rogue franchisee.  It didn’t come from corporate, in fact, corporate was resistant at first. But Jim Delligatti’s sandwich in Uniontown, PA became so popular that, after a year, it earned its way onto the corporate menu and got the whole world singing, “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun.”

Delligatti believed that his customers wanted a larger sandwich option and the larger offering could “eat into” the market share of the Whopper and Big Boy.  His, reluctant permission to make the Big Mac had the stipulation that Jim make the sandwich with only McDonald’s ingredients. However, the two patties wouldn’t play nice with each other, so Jim had an extra-large bun created from a local baker and sliced twice for the double-decker sesame-seed bun that we know today. He also created his own “secret sauce.”

In a corporate culture of consistency and low prices, Dellgatti created a giant, higher-priced burger, with his own ingredients, and it changed the company.

Today, McDonalds sells about 550 million Big Macs each year in the US alone and another million more around the world.

Jim DelligattiThis story tells us a few things that you can bring into your business:

  • While consistency is king in branding, you need to be willing to take chances and test new ideas.
  • Big ideas (and Big Macs) can come from anywhere. It wasn’t a corporate “chef,” but a franchise owner who built the giant burger.
  • All corporate entities MUST listen to their individual markets. It is your team from OUTSIDE of the “main office” (I hate that term) that knows what customers want. Don’t wait for the Jim Delligatti’s to come to you.  Go out and ask their opinions. Welcome them. Celebrate them!

I’ll bet I know where you’re going for lunch now!!!

Michael James Delligatti passed away on Monday, November 28 at the age of 98. His family says that he ate at least one Big Mac per week.

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