Jim Delligatti, Big Mac Inventor at McDonald’s Chain, Dies at 98

  • He introduced the sandwich in his restaurant franchise in 1967
  • His recipe: two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, etc.

Jim Delligatti, a McDonald’s Corp. franchisee who in 1967 introduced the Big Mac sandwich that quickly spread throughout the world’s biggest restaurant chain, has died. He was 98.

He died Nov. 28 in Pittsburgh, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said in an e-mailed statement.

Michael "Jim" Delligatti

Source: McDonald’s

After Delligatti started selling the Big Mac in his Uniontown, Pennsylvania, franchise, McDonald’s introduced it nationally in 1968. On the product’s 40th anniversary, the company said it was selling 550 million Big Macs a year. The sandwich -- two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions in a sesame seed bun -- hasn’t changed. The chain is experimenting with Sriracha Big Macs, as well as small and large versions for its menu.

Delligatti never revealed his recipe for the special sauce. "If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret," he said in a 1993 interview with Bloomberg News. Big Macs are sold in more that 100 countries around the world.

Going National

McDonald’s was initially reluctant to embrace the Big Mac, according to Delligatti. “They felt they had everything they needed at the time,” he said. After franchisees in Toledo, Ohio, embraced the new product, the company introduced the Big Mac nationwide.

Dellgatti was also instrumental in introducing breakfast service at the chain, including hotcakes and sausages he fed to hungry steelworkers on their way home from Pittsburgh-area steel mills, according to a family obituary. He owned more than 40 McDonald’s locations in western Pennsylvania.

Over the past five decades, McDonald’s franchisees have been responsible for some of the chains most successful menu items. Apple pies and Egg McMuffins also were created by independent operators, who own about 90 percent of the company’s restaurants in the U.S.

Economic Index

Since 1986, the Economist magazine has used the price of a Big Mac as a measure of purchasing-power parity among currencies. In July 2016, the Big Mac in America was $5.04 and in China sold for the equivalent of $2.79, indicating the yuan was undervalued by 45 percent. The sandwich was priced at 45 cents when Delligatti first put it on his menu.

Michael “Jim” Delligatti was born Aug. 2, 1918, in Uniontown, according to public records. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

He got his start in the hamburger business after moving to Southern California, where he managed a drive-in restaurant in Long Beach. In 1955, he put up $1,500 for his first McDonald’s franchise.

Survivors include his wife, Ellie, and two sons, James and Michael.

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