A 24,000-square-foot “flagship” restaurant in downtown Chicago was opened following speeches from several McDonald’s executives and a fireworks show. Located at 600 N. Clark St., the new McDonald’s sits on the site of the famed and very popular “rock ‘n roll” McDonald’s, which was closed and bulldozed in 2004 to make room for its replacement. Owner Marilyn Wright is confident that the new concept—a super-sized version of the original McDonald’s in nearby Des Plaines, Illinois—will be a popular attraction.

“The old rock ‘n roll McDonald’s was one of the five biggest volume stores worldwide, but it was 21 years old,” Wright says. “We had it in mind to do something special for the 50th anniversary. We were able to accomplish a state of the art McDonald’s.” Hundreds of customers stood in line for the store’s 11 a.m. opening, and some visitors still waited to get in at 1:30 p.m.

Reporters from as far as Turkey and Japan gathered at the firm’s Oak Brook, Illinois corporate headquarters on April 14 to hear the story of how Ray Kroc’s 15-cent hamburger grew to become one of the world’s most recognized brands.

“No one had ever envisioned a national chain of quick service restaurants, let alone one that circled the globe,” says McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner. “Thanks to Ray Kroc’s vision, we celebrate a half century of opportunity at the Golden Arches.”

With 17,000-plus restaurants in 119 nations, much of McDonald’s growth and expansion is taking place outside the United States. The company’s emphasis on global markets was evident, as several overseas executives spoke at length about the popularity of McDonald’s in their home countries.

“The first McDonald’s in Russia opened on January 31, 1990 in Pushkin Square in Moscow,” according to Khamzat Khasbulatov, president of McDonald’s Russia. “By 10:00, we had a line a couple of miles long. We served more than 30,000 customers that day. This restaurant has served more than 100 million customers in 15 years.”

“When I began with McDonald’s in 1984, there were 17 restaurants in France at that time,” recalls Denis Hennequin, executive vice president for Europe. “We talked about having 100 restaurants in France. It seemed like a nice dream, but impossible.” McDonald’s currently has 1150 French locations.

Reporting by Al Doyle

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