Jim Delligatti, inventor of the Big Mac and pure joy died on Monday evening at the age of 98.
He created the world’s most recognisable burger when he was a McDonald’s franchisee in 1967 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
At the time, McDonald’s were selling just a standard burger, milkshake and fries and Delligatti saw a need for a bigger sandwich.
Initially, he tried putting just two patties in the normal buns that McDonald’s were using, but when he found that the burger was a too sloppy, he slotted in the genius middle slice of bread. And of course, his secret Big Mac sauce.
Knowing that he’d created greatness, Delligatti then had to fight to convince McDonald’s co-owner Ray Kroc to let him start selling it at his branch. Resistant to change, the corporation said they already had a good thing that was working well for them.
But big Jim didn’t give up, taking two years to convince the bosses that it was a good idea. Eventually, the allowed him to try it in his restaurant, to instant success, and then rolled it out to 47 outlets before taking it nationwide in 1968.
The chain has since sold billions of sandwiches – by the time the burger turned 40, McDonald’s estimated it was selling 550m Big Macs a year.
But making an iconic burger wasn’t enough for Delligatti. He managed to make McDonald’s millions more by creating the Egg McMuffin in 1970. A fried egg, a slice of American cheese and a piece of ham on a toasted English muffin and another two years convinced Kroc to create the now infamous full breakfast menu – which incidentally helped save the company when they introduced an all-day breakfast. McDonald’s owes this guy almost everything.
But Delligatti got nothing but a plaque for his contributions. McDonald’s has admitted they never gave him royalties but have never explained why (probably something to do with intellectual property rights when you’re already working for them).
In a 2005 interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, no longer available, Delligatti joked that he received a “dollar apiece” on the global sales, before telling his interviewer: “No, honey. I don’t get anything. I’d love to have a tenth of a cent.”
When Delligatti created the Big Mac in 1967, it cost 45 cents and McDonald's had just 1,000 restaurants (the chain now runs 36,615 worldwide).
Jim first named the recipe “Aristocrat” and “Blue Ribbon Burger” but the name “Big Mac” was created by Esther Glickstein Rose, a 21-year-old Advertising Secretary who worked at McDonald’s Corporate office in Chicago. Everyone agreed that it sounded catchier and so it stuck. It’s Big Mac, because Big Mc sounds weird.
After inventing the burger, Jim Delligatti went on to run 48 McDonald's branches, making him one of the biggest franchisees in the company's history.
In 2007 he opened the Big Mac Museum, where visitors can be photographed in front of the world's largest Big Mac - which is more than four metres wide.
It is through the museum and the McDonald’s restaurants he owned that Delligatti made his money, rather than his invention.
As for what the man responsible for terrible dietary choices across the globe eats, according to his son he ate at least one Big Mac a week. And lived to 98. So if ever you need validation for your choices, there you go.
Admittedly, he once said he preferred the hotcakes and sausages from the breakfast menu. Which he also helped invent in an effort to feed hungry steelworkers on their way to work in the morning.
In a statement released through McDonald’s, Delligatti’s family said he was a “spirited and generous philanthropist” who helped refugee families get treatment for their children. He also supported various other charities and served as a sergeant in the US army in Europe during WW2
McDonald’s shared their thanks with a quote from Delligatti about how iconic the burger became: