Michael “Jim” Delligatti, the man who invented the iconic Big Mac for McDonald’s has passed away at the age of 98.
Jim Delligatti was a McDonald’s franchise owner who invented the famous burger at his Pennsylvania restaurant in 1967.
“Today, we celebrate the 98 inspirational years of Big Mac inventor, Michael ‘Jim’ Delligatti. Jim, we thank and will forever remember you,” the company said in a statement.
Delligatti died this past Monday in his home in Pittsburgh surrounded by his loved ones, according to his obituary which was prepared by his family and provided by McDonald’s to the media. The cause of his death was not released.
Delligatti was one of the fast food chain’s first franchisees. He opened up his first store in Pittsburgh in 1957. Throughout his life, he would own and operate 47 more McDonald’s restaurants, making him one of the company’s largest franchise holders.
In 1967, he started serving the Big Mac in his Uniontown, Pennsylvania restaurant after he was inspired by the double-decker sandwiches that were being sold by his competitors.
“This wasn’t like discovering the light bulb,” he once said in a statement in 1993. “The bulb was already there. All I did was screw it in the socket.”
While the sandwich and McDonald’s itself has received a lot of scrutiny over the years due to their “unhealthy” menu items and being blamed for the cause of the obesity epidemic in America, you can’t deny that the Big Mac is one of the most iconic burgers in the world.
The Big Mac, as described by the popular 1970s jingle, consists of two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. It was an instant hit with the company and McDonald’s started selling it nationally in 1968.
In 2008, for the burger’s 40th anniversary, McDonald’s said they sold more than half a billion Big Macs each year. It is currently sold in more than 100 countries around the world.
But over the past few years, sales for the 540-calorie burger have declined as customers have become more health conscious. Earlier this month, the company announced that in 2017, it will briefly offer smaller and larger versions of the sandwich, which may incline those health-conscience McDonald’s customers to try a Big Mac once again.
Total US sales have rebounded in the past year at McDonald’s, thanks largely due to the introduction of all-day breakfast — an area where Delligatti’s influence was also felt.
“A true innovator for the industry, Jim was instrumental in introducing breakfast service at McDonald’s,” his family obituary stated. “He developed the Hotcakes and Sausage meal to feed hungry steel workers on their way home from overnight shifts in the mills.”
In a statement made by a McDonald’s spokesperson, they praised Delligatti as a “legendary franchisee, who made a lasting impression on our brand.”
Delligatti, who also served as a US Army sergeant in WWII, is survived by his wife Ellie, his two sons, five grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
“Delligatti…never dreamed his 1968 ‘invention’ would become a major piece of Americana,” McDonald’s said in 2008. “Next to baseball and apple pie, his Big Mac stands as a proud figure of American pop-culture.”
About the Famous Inventor
Michael James “Jim” Delligatti was born on August 2 1918 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He was the son of a cobbler and candy maker father and was educated in his hometown as well as in Fairmont, West Virginia, before serving in Europe during WWII with the U.S. Army.
Jim is known for developing the Big Mac in 1967, and the Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwich two years later. In 1970, both sandwiches were sold in his Pittsburgh, PA area restaurants.
Jim was a graduate of Michigan State University. He originally named his invention the “Big Mac Super Sandwich”. He was one of McDonald’s original franchisees from the mid-1950s who, at the time, operated several restaurants in the Pittsburgh area.
The Big Mac was first served at Delligatti’s Uniontown, PA store in 1967. In 1968, McDonald’s, with the CEO and founder Ray Kroc’s blessing, started to sell the now iconic sandwich nationwide.
Two years later, Delligatti created the Egg McMuffin, which he started selling his stores in 1970 before Kroc gave him permission to start selling the breakfast sandwich. It helped to pave the way for the creation of various breakfast menu items in 1972, that were sold in all McDonald’s stores.
In 2007, Delligatti opened the Big Mac Museum, home to the “world’s largest Big Mac”, which is more than four meters across.