Michael “Jim” Delligatti, the inventor of McDonald’s (MCD - Free Report) famous Big Mac sandwich, died Monday night in Pittsburgh at 98 years old. He was one of the iconic burger chain’s first franchisees.
Born in 1918 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Delligatti first entered the hamburger business after he moved to Southern California, managing a drive-in restaurant in Long Beach. But 1955 is when the magic began: Delligatti bought his first McDonald’s franchise for $1,500, and went on to operate 47 additional locations throughout Pennsylvania.
Delligatti first offered the Big Mac in 1967 at his Uniontown McDonald’s, wanting to introduce a bigger burger on a menu that specialized in simple burgers, fries, and shakes. Though it seems absurd today, McDonald’s was hesitant to the idea of the Big Mac because its basic menu was selling well. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Delligatti was eventually given the go-ahead to make the burger—despite having to go out and buy the double-sliced buns himself—creating a hit at his restaurants.
The recipe hasn’t changed since, with two all-beef patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and “special sauce” on a sesame bun, even though the price has. The Big Mac originally sold for 45 cents. Today, you can get the burger for $3.99 (or $5.69 if you make it a meal). The burger is sold in more than 100 countries around the world.
“Jim was a legendary franchisee within McDonald’s system who made a lasting impression on our brand," McDonald's said in a statement on Delligatti's death. "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."
In addition to creating one of the most famous sandwiches ever, Delligatti played a crucial role in developing McDonald’s breakfast menu. He would feed steel workers hotcakes and sausage at the end of their overnight shifts, in effect creating the popular Hotcakes and Sausage menu item, according to a family obituary.
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